Children are dumbing down, says expert

PUBLISHED : Sunday, 12 August, 2007, 12:00am
UPDATED : Sunday, 12 August, 2007, 12:00am

Modern living has blunted the problem-solving abilities of Hong Kong children and given them shorter attention spans than previous generations, an educational psychologist testing their IQs believes.

'Today's children have shorter attention spans because they can get answers to everything quickly from the internet,' Raymond Tang Ho-ming said yesterday.

'On the other hand, they have fewer chances to make mistakes and learn from their mistakes because their parents are overprotective.'

He was speaking at a mass intelligence test in Kowloon Bay for more than 300 children under five.

Dr Tang, who has been involved in paediatric psychology for more than 10 years, said modern society offered children unprecedented exposure to different types of information, which expanded their knowledge base.

However, he said that this did not help improve their thinking, and their problem-solving abilities were inferior to those of children 20 years ago.

Dr Tang said the increasing number of single-child families in Hong Kong was also unfavourable for the development of children's social skills.

'Without brothers and sisters, children tend to be more self-centred and don't know how to get along with other kids,' he said.

Children at the event at the International Trade and Exhibition Centre took tests designed to measure their linguistic and mathematical abilities, logical reasoning, visual analysis, social skills and ability to control emotions.

Dr Tang, who designed the tests, said they helped give parents a better idea of their children's strengths and weaknesses. The results could help them choose schools for their children.

'If the child tends to be more docile and obedient, he'd better to go to a traditional and structural school,' he said.

'If he is rather active and creative, then a more flexible and free-style school may suit him better.'

Cynthia Chow Sau-kuen, 35, took her four-year-old son to sit the test.

Like many parents in Hong Kong, Ms Chow sends her son to special interest classes, including gym, swimming, kung fu, piano and Putonghua lessons.

'I hope to know more about what he is good at through the tests so that we can pay more attention to help him develop it,' she said.

Ms Chow was also keen to know more about her son's social skills, which she finds hard to detect at home.

'We have only one child. I don't know what he is really like when he is playing with other children,' she said.

'I am looking forward to seeing the assessment from a third person commenting on him in this setting.'

Five ways to tell the intelligence of a 3 1/4-year-old

1 Language Be able to state their sex and form sentences of at least three words

2 Maths Can understand the meaning of the numbers one to three

3 Logic Understands the meaning of more or less; can tell the difference between big and small items

4 Visual analysis Able to build a bridge with three toy bricks

5 Emotions and social skills Able to follow the rules of a game and listen to an adult's instructions