Using a computer at home might actually reduce a child's performance in maths, science and English rather than improve it, a study has found.
Researchers who looked at 100,000 children in 32 countries originally found that children from homes with computers performed better. In fact houses with computers were likely to be from a richer social class, and when these factors were removed performance was less than expected.
But books do have a positive impact on a child's performance at school. Children living in a house with more than 500 books in it do much better at maths and science than those in homes without books.
Researchers believe computers could damage learning in one of two ways. Either learning on a computer is less effective than other methods or home computers are distracting kids who are spending time browsing or sending email rather than doing their homework.
Phil Hemmings, director of corporate affairs at education hardware specialist RM, told El Reg: "It's tricky looking at just one piece of research because there's always something else which says the reverse - BECTA, for instance, has research showing the benefits of computer use in schools."
Hemmings said computers are just another resource: "Schools which use their resources well have better results than those that don't."
The research is to be presented this week to the Royal Economic Society's Annual Conference in Nottingham by Thomas Fuchs and Ludger Woessmann of Munich University. It is a re-examination of data gathered in 2000. The conference is also looking at the economic impact of war in Iraq and elsewhere and the effects of emigration of skilled workers.
Getting computers into schools has been a key part of this government's education, education, education policy. Chancellor Gordon Brown included measures to allow kids to lease cheap computers for use at home in last week's Budget. More details on the Guardian website here.®