In what researchers describe as one of the first long-term looks at the effects of media use during childhood, a study released Wednesday linked hours at the computer with achievement test scores and behavior and found little sign of harm for children ages 6 to 12 as they increased their screen time over a six-year period.

Moreover, the study found benefits for girls and black boys.

"Generally, adolescent achievement and adjustment showed benefits from the use of the computer, and it didn't have to be studying. It could be playing games," said Sandra L. Hofferth, a family science professor and director of the Maryland Population Research Center.

Hofferth's results, published in the journal Child Development, showed that African American boys' reading scores improved by four points, considered significant, as they increasingly logged more time on the computer.

Girls' achievement test scores for reading and math notched upward by a point. Socially, there was another positive effect: White girls were less likely to be withdrawn as they played more on the computer.

p>Only white boys showed a decline in test scores -- small but statistically significant -- that Hofferth interpreted as resulting from too much surfing the Web. "Too much just random surfing isn't necessarily good," she said. "However, playing games and studying are more focused, and they have a positive effect."

Source: Washington Post
http://www.washingtonpost.com/wp-dyn/content/article/2010/09/14/AR2010091407044.html