Objectives. To explore the association between early computer experience (both accessibility and frequency of use) and cognitive and psychomotor development among young children.
Methods. The participants were 122 preschool children enrolled in a rural county Head Start program in the United States during 2001–2002. The following tests were administered to the children: the Bender Visual Motor Gestalt Test; the Boehm Test of Basic Concepts, Third Edition Preschool; the Test of Gross Motor Development, Second Edition; and a short form of the Wechsler Preschool and Primary Scales of Intelligence–Revised. Information pertaining to family characteristics and children’s early computer experience was collected from parents. Both bivariate and multivariate analyses were used to assess the association between early computer experience and cognitive and motor development.
Results. Of the participating children, 53% had a computer at home. Among families who had a computer, 83% had children’s software on the computer. According to parents’ reports, 29% of these children played on the home computer on a daily basis, and an additional 44% of the children played on the computer at least weekly. Of those families who did not have a home computer, 49% reported that their children had access to a computer somewhere outside home. Among these children, 10% had daily access to the computer and 33% had weekly access. The presence of a computer in the home was significantly associated with the family’s income and the educational attainment of the parents. There was no gender difference in computer accessibility and frequency use among the participating children. Children who had access to a computer performed better on measures of school readiness and cognitive development, controlling for children’s developmental stage and family socioeconomic status. The data in the current study did not suggest a relationship between computer experience and visual motor or gross motor skills among the participating children.
Conclusion. The findings in the present study suggest that early computer exposure before or during the preschool years is associated with development of preschool concepts and cognition among young children. However, frequency of use did not reveal such a relationship; neither did the ownership of other child electronic or video games in the household.