Skip to content

    Health & Parenting

    Font Size

    Computers Boost Preschool Kids' Intelligence

    But Too Much Computer Time Could Hamper Development

    Thumbs Up

    The 122 4-year-olds in Li's study were enrolled in a rural Head Start program in an economically depressed region of West Virginia. "We wanted to pick a population with a limited access to computers. In the urban middle class, all families have them," he tells WebMD.

    Parents completed a questionnaire: Did their home have a computer? Did the children use it? How often? Was there a video game system like the Nintendo GameCube, Microsoft Xbox, or Sony Playstation 2? Also, did the children have access to a computer outside the home?

    He found that about half of the families -- 53% -- had a computer at home, and most had some sort of game system, too.


    • 83% of home computers had children's software on their computer.
    • 29% of children used their home computer daily; 44% used it at least weekly
    • 56% of families without a home computer had access to one elsewhere.
    • 10% of those children without home access used that computer daily; 33% used it weekly.

    "Many kids took advantage of computers in other settings (like the babysitter's house)," Li tells WebMD. "That was good news."

    The children were given several tests to measure their eye-hand coordination, motor skills (like running, jumping, catching) and their IQ. Their "school readiness" was also evaluated: Could they follow directions and understand concepts like big and small, right and left?

    Importantly, "we didn't see any problems in eye-hand or motor development," says Li. "We didn't see deteriorating impact of computer use."

    The Good News

    In fact, it was all good news. Preschoolers with computer access had:

    • Higher skill development test scores -- twice as high
    • IQ scores 12 points higher than kids who didn't use computers
    • Better school readiness scores

    Were the children using educational software or just playing games? His study didn't look at that specifically. However, it did show that some computer or electronic game exposure was better than none.

    "These kids are very young," Li explains. "They cannot do Excel or Power Point. They must be limited to simple games or simple learning. How the child uses the computer may not be important. But whether they use it is important."

    Today on WebMD

    Girl holding up card with BMI written
    Is your child at a healthy weight?
    toddler climbing
    What happens in your child’s second year.
    father and son with laundry basket
    Get your kids to help around the house.
    boy frowning at brocolli
    Tips for dealing with mealtime mayhem
    mother and daughter talking
    child brushing his teeth
    Sipping hot tea
    boy drinking from cereal bowl
    hand holding a cell phone
    rl with friends
    girl being bullied
    Child with adhd