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Evidence-based guidelines for the informal use of computers by children to promote the development of academic, cognitive and social skills

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The use of computers in the home has become very common among young children. This paper reviews research on the effects of informal computer use and identifies potential pathways through which computers may impact children's development. Based on the evidence reviewed, we present the following guidelines to arrange informal computer experiences that will promote the development of children's academic, cognitive and social skills: (1) children should be encouraged to use computers for moderate amounts of time (2–3┬ádays a week for an hour or two per day) and (2) children's use of computers should (a) include non-violent action-based computer games as well as educational games, (b) not displace social activities but should instead be arranged to provide opportunities for social engagement with peers and family members and (c) involve content with pro-social and non-violent themes. We conclude the paper with questions that must be addressed in future research.

Practitioner Summary: This paper reviews research on the effects of informal computer use on children's academic, cognitive and social skills. Based on the evidence presented, we have presented guidelines to enable parents, teachers and other adults to arrange informal computer experiences so as to maximise their potential benefit for children's development.
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Keywords: Internet; cognitive, academic and social skills; computers; games; informal computer use

Document Type: Research Article

Affiliations: Department of Psychology, California State University, Los Angeles, CA, USA

Publication date: September 1, 2013

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