Computer Use a Boost to Young Minds, Study Finds
Mon Jun 7, 2004

CHICAGO (Reuters) - Preschool children who use a computer appear to develop better learning skills than peers who lack computer savvy, U.S. researchers said on Monday.

In a study of 122 children aged 3 to 5, those exposed to a home or school computer either alone or with someone else three to four times a week scored higher on tests that gauge school readiness and cognitive development than non-users, said the study published in the journal Pediatrics.

Some earlier studies have found computer use improves children's fine motor skills and improves recognition of numbers and letters.

But other research has found no relationship between computer use and children's knowledge or language capability, and some experts believe computer use displaces essential childhood experiences such as playing with toys or with peers.

But researchers found no benefit to children having electronic or video games in the home. Of the 56 percent of children with computers at home, a majority had such games, wrote study authors Xiaoming Li, a pediatrician at Wayne State University in Detroit, and psychologist Melissa Atkins of Ohio State University in Columbus.

The authors said the study was limited, using parents' estimates of time spent on the computer and not assessing how often educational software was used. The study did adjust for the wealth and educational status of the children's families.

They said young children "use" a computer in a variety of ways: typing, playing games, using learning software, jiggling the mouse or joystick, watching images, or observing and imitating parents or siblings when they use the computer.