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Smartphones damaging reading skills

Pupils are so used to receiving information in fast, bite-sized chunks that many struggle to study more complex issues in proper depth, says Helen Fraser, chief executive of the Girls’ Day School Trust.

Smartphones could be damaging children's reading skills

Pupils are so used to receiving information in fast, bite-sized chunks that many struggle to study more complex issues in proper depth, says Helen Fraser, chief executive of the Girls’ Day School Trust.

She says that children should be told to “switch off the computer, the radio, the smartphone, the TV and other distractions” and taught the importance of reading whole books from beginning to end.

The comments – to be made in a speech to the trust’s annual conference on Wednesday – come amid continuing concerns over the effects of technology on young people.

A large-scale study by the University of Gothenburg in Sweden published this week found that youngsters who spend hours using mobile phones – talking or searching the internet – are more likely to develop sleep disorders, stress and mental illness.

Speaking in central London, Mrs Fraser will say that pupils need to balance the use of phones and computers with more traditional approaches.

“I do worry that the ease of access to nuggets of information means that our appetites are becoming infantilised,” she says. "So I’m a firm believer in the importance for our students of switching off the computer, the radio, the smartphone, the TV, and any other distractions, and reading a whole book… following an author’s train of thought, through perhaps some complex arguments and situations, from first principles through to their conclusion.”

GDST runs a network of 24 fee-paying girls’ schools and two state-funded academies. A number of the organisation’s schools are regularly ranked among the best in the country for A-level and GCSE results, including Oxford High, South Hampstead High, Putney High and Wimbledon High.

She insists that schools have a duty to promote “independent learning” to make sure children grow up with the necessary skills needed to succeed at university and the workplace.

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