According to researchers in the US, toddlers who use a computer develop better learning skills than other toddlers who do not use a computer. Researchers studied 122 children, aged 3-5 years. The kids who used a computer three to four times a week got better scores on a test aimed at gauging school readiness and cognitive development. You can read about this study in the journal Pediatrics.

This new study comes after previous ones which indicated superior motor, numerical and literary skills among toddlers who regularly use computers.

Other experts, however, say that this could be at the expense of social skills and the enjoyment and interactions that take place when toddlers play with toys and each other.

Video games did not seem to give the toddlers any benefit at all, said the researchers. They found that 55% of the kids with a computer at home also had video games, said Xiaoming Li, lead researcher, Wayne State University, Detroit, USA.

The researchers said that more research was needed as their study was a limited one. They got their feedback from parents estimates on the amount of time the kids spend on their computers. There was no feedback on how regularly educational software was used. Such factors as wealth and educational status were not taken into account.

Here are some useful tips from babycentre on TODDLERS and COMPUTERS

Hold off until your child is at least nine months to a year old

Children younger than nine months don't have the physical skills to interact with the computer. Their vision isn't developed enough to clearly focus on the screen until they're about six months old. And most children also need to be able to sit up by themselves to enjoy staring at a screen while you work the mouse. Sitting up without any support usually doesn't happen until around six to eight months. Young babies also don't have the attention span necessary to follow what's happening on the screen.

Start when your child shows an interest

Computer use is not an activity worth forcing. Wait for your child to show some curiosity. Is she interested in your machine? Does she pound on the keyboard? Does she watch you when you're working or surfing? If she seems responsive - smiling, laughing, clapping - go for it. If not, let it go. And don't worry that she'll lose any ground as a computer whizzkid. A lesson or two in school, and she'll soon know how to work a mouse with the best of them.

Make computer time shared time

Share the computer experience with your child as a friend, fellow audience member and guide. That way, you'll be there to draw your child out, just as you do when reading a book. (So, what colour is Elmo's fur? How come Daisy is feeling sad?) This helps a child build vocabulary and memory skills - and share some time with Mum or Dad. And, starting at age two or so, when your child starts asking questions (Why is Peter Rabbit wearing a coat?), you'll be there to answer them, which is a crucial part of a child's coming to understand his world.

Choose activities designed for very young children

Many games and CD-ROMS are too fast, too loud and too confusing for a young child's brain to absorb - and they can be frightening. It's best to stick with games developed for children under three. And if you start out with Mario Brothers, there's no going back to Teletubbies.

Make fun and computer exposure your goal, not academic learning

Ideally, a tot under three will view the computer as another toy at his disposal and not a task master. There's no point in drilling a one-year-old on the alphabet or addition and subtraction. Instead, go for software that reinforces reading and math readiness skills, which can include listening comprehension, cause-and-effect, opposites such as big and small, and colour and shape recognition. Even then, you'll maintain your child's enthusiasm for learning and computers if skill-building is incidental to a good story, song or game.

Limit screen time

Thirty-minute sessions are plenty for one- to two-year-olds, most of whom will lose interest if you push it further. By the time your child is three or four, you can work up to as much as an hour a day (total) if your child wants to continue, but stop earlier if he doesn't. More than that will eat into the time available for other critical development tasks such as eating, sleeping, playing, dancing and talking with adults and other children. Whenever you play on the computer with your child, watch for signs of fatigue - if he stops looking at the screen and starts fidgeting, getting sleepy or crying, it's time to stop.

Select activities with big, easy-to-see images

One to three images per screen is a good guideline, especially for kids around one. When the image gets more complicated - a street scene with lots of characters, for example - a young child just can't comprehend it. At this developmental stage, zany, complicated drawings are too chaotic for your child's developing brain. But as his visual skills build, you can choose activities with more complicated pictures. By three your child may be ready for big scenes.

Choose activities with simple songs

From birth, babies enjoy songs and music with a steady rhythm and sing-song tone. The repetition of songs such as "Old MacDonald," for example, helps one-year-olds establish patterns and start to anticipate what will come next. If you've got an 18-month-old, have fun with the sound of bells, whistles or clocks - toddlers that age really respond to them. But pass on software and websites with frantic noises or loud rock music. The random rhythm is confusing and even startling to very young ears.

Save storylines until your child is at least two

Short stories on the computer can complement reading aloud to your child. You can slowly work up to longer stories to increase your child's listening comprehension and attention span. But save the fairy tales and involved adventure software for older children, starting somewhere around age two. Younger children can't follow plots and might get frustrated.

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