Computers Boost Preschool Kids' Intelligence
But Too Much Computer Time Could Hamper Development
WebMD News Archive
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
- 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."