Children and adolescents are increasingly using PCs and the internet to learn and do schoolwork, but there are fears this could damage their little brains and make them fat.

In a survey by The Learning Company and Planet PC magazine, six in ten young people between the ages of 6 and 18 said they spent at least an hour a week on a PC doing homework and school projects.

This seems to lend weight to the government’s wish to put PCs in all schools.

But a US report by child development academics the Alliance for Childhood questions whether children will get the academic and eventual vocational advantages commonly associated with early years computer use.

“Computers pose serious health hazards to children. The risks include repetitive stress injuries, eyestrain, obesity, social isolation, and, for some, long-term physical, emotional, or intellectual developmental damage,” says the report.

But this could be more a UK/USA problem. Other countries see children's early years as a time for play rather than work, and in Denmark the PC seems to be of great benefit. Dr Carsten Jessen of Odense University in Denmark says computers can be used healthily for play and development.

“Computer games are for example rarely an asocial or individual activity. They rarely place a child alone in front of a computer screen. On the contrary they are very much a social activity,” says Jessen.

“Just think about a tricycle in the kindergarten. It is not a means of transport for the children, but a tool or instrument of play.”

In a revelation that may come as a complete shock to most parents, 68 percent of young people surveyed said they would consider buying revision software, probably in the vain hope it would get them out of doing it themselves. Nearly two-thirds said they used the internet to help with homework.