Swedish kids’ reading skills hit by computer use: report

A new study from Gothenburg University shows that the falling levels of reading skills among Swedish school children may be connected to an increase in screen-based activities.

Swedish kids' reading skills hit by computer use: report

“This is a danger to the whole Swedish learning society,” Monica Rosén, professor of pedagogics at the Gothenburg University, told The Local.

Rosén has been studying the reading habits of Swedish nine and ten-year olds over the last twenty years.

The study shows that results of reading tests for students in year four in the Swedish primary school (grundskola) are looking increasingly more like those of year three results from twenty years ago.

Surprisingly, it is not the number of non-proficient readers that has increased; instead it is the number of proficient readers that have diminished.

According to Rosén, one of the reasons for this is that when children reach the age when they traditionally read the most (9-12) many today choose computer games over books.

“It isn’t so much that the interest in reading is dwindling, but rather that leisure time activities have changed over the years,” Rosén told The Local.

The decrease is most noticeable among boys; a fact that Rosén thinks is reflected in boys traditionally being at the forefront of screen-based activities. But, she points out, girls are not far behind.

According to Rosén, boosting reading skills is important for Sweden not in the least if the country wants to be able to compete internationally.

“We have gone from a top position compared to other countries to a middling one,” Rosén told newspaper Metro.

Not being good at taking in textual information also makes learning other subjects like maths or science more difficult.

Rosén points out that the level of proficiency in Sweden in these subjects has decreased over the last few years compared to other countries.

“Our entire society is built on taking in and interpreting textual information, so there is a risk that differences between individuals will increase,” Rosén told The Local.

In order to combat this it will be important for schools to recognise the problem and adapt the curriculum accordingly. But parents have a responsibility too.

“Sweden is a great literary country both when it comes to children’s and adults’ books. We are their role-models and we can choose to pick up a book every now and again,” she said.

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Swedish opposition proposes ‘rapid tests for ADHD’ to cut gang crime

The Moderate Party in Stockholm has called for children in so called "vulnerable areas" to be given rapid tests for ADHD to increase treatment and cut gang crime.

Swedish opposition proposes 'rapid tests for ADHD' to cut gang crime

In a press release, the party proposed that treating more children in troubled city areas would help prevent gang crime, given that “people with ADHD diagnoses are “significantly over-represented in the country’s jails”. 

The idea is that children in so-called “vulnerable areas”, which in Sweden normally have a high majority of first and second-generation generation immigrants, will be given “simpler, voluntary tests”, which would screen for ADHD, with those suspected of having the neuropsychiatric disorder then put forward for proper evaluations to be given by a child psychiatrist. 

“The quicker you can put in place measures, the better the outcomes,” says Irene Svenonius, the party’s leader in the municipality, of ADHD treatment, claiming that children in Sweden with an immigrant background were less likely to be medicated for ADHD than other children in Sweden. 

In the press release, the party said that there were “significant differences in the diagnosis and treatment of ADHD within Stockholm country”, with Swedish-born children receiving diagnosis and treatment to a higher extent, and with ADHD “with the greatest probability” underdiagnosed in vulnerable areas. 

At a press conference, the party’s justice spokesman Johan Forsell, said that identifying children with ADHD in this areas would help fight gang crime. 

“We need to find these children, and that is going to help prevent crime,” he said. 

Sweden’s climate minister Annika Strandhäll accused the Moderates of wanting to “medicate away criminality”. 

Lotta Häyrynen, editor of the trade union-backed comment site Nya Mitten, pointed out that the Moderates’s claim to want to help children with neuropsychiatric diagnoses in vulnerable areas would be more credible if they had not closed down seven child and youth psychiatry units. 

The Moderate Party MP and debater Hanif Bali complained about the opposition from left-wing commentators and politicians.

“My spontaneous guess would have been that the Left would have thought it was enormously unjust that three times so many immigrant children are not getting a diagnosis or treatment compared to pure-Swedish children,” he said. “Their hate for the Right is stronger than their care for the children. 

Swedish vocab: brottsförebyggande – preventative of crime