We have all heard the warnings about screens being bad for children – but now a French study from the influential Academy of Sciences claims that playing with computers, touchpads and video games can actually be good for even young children, if a few simple rules are followed.
Televisions, tablets and other screens surround many children and the majority appear to love watching and playing on them.
To find out about the effects, children were monitored while playing video games. We watched one such sessions and saw that the rear area of a child’s brain – the part that controls movement – was active, but the frontal lobe was also active – that is the area of the brain controlling abstract thinking and problem solving.
Researcher Olivier Houde explained what that means: “This is the key message: if you educate the child to use video screens, that child is going to learn how to use different parts of his brain.”
Researchers said parents need to explain that a touchpad or a computer is just a means to learning or having fun.
Mr Houde added: “It is only because it is a medium of exchange that it allows the child to discover not only what we can do with the internet, but also it allows him to name what he sees, to learn how to interact, to learn to understand. A child doesn’t do this spontaneously. No touchpad by itself can help a child to do anything”.
But the report stresses that screen-based activities must be suitable for the age of the child; while TV is not advised for under two year olds, scientists said there is nothing wrong with tablets and similar devices – in moderation – to introduce even the smallest children to our digital world.