Computers Boost Preschool Kids' Intelligence
But Too Much Computer Time Could Hamper Development
Thumbs Up continued...
- 83% of home computers had children's software on their computer.
- 29% of children used their home computer daily; 44% used it at least
- 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
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
The Good News
In fact, it was all good news. Preschoolers with computer
- 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."
Too Much Computer Time = Bad News
Li didn't examine the parents' role in the computer use
scenario. "That could make a huge difference in how frequently kids played
on the computer," Li explains. "Some parents leave kids in front of the
computer every day, make it into a babysitter, so the parents can do something
else. We don't want to encourage that."
Too-frequent use seemed to have some negative effects, Li
reports. In his study, children who used the computer less often were better
prepared for school. Daily and even weekly use left them less prepared.
In future reports, Li will look at effects of educational
software in Head Start classrooms. Each child gets to spend 15 to 20 minutes a
day on the computer, he says. The children's social, psychological, and
physical development will be tested.
"A lot of people have very strong arguments against
computer use by kids -- that it could have a negative social and motivational
impact," says Li. "We believe that's true."
Teachers must be careful to limit computer use, Field adds.
"If preschools like Head Start start putting too many computers and not
allowing enough pretend time -- that's how children learn how to have empathy,
learn to be someone else. It develops their creativity and imagination and
their social sense. They learn to take turns."