It may seem like a strange idea… teaching your child to use the computer. After all, you’ve heard all the horror stories out there! In this article I’m going to be taking a look at the benefits of introducing technology into your bag of tricks, and, believe me, there are many. I will also be going through some of the safety options available to parents to ensure that your little one stays safe. Enjoy!
Benefits of introducing your child to the world of technology
In the school environment:
One of the biggest realizations that I have had in the last couple of years, with regards to my older daughter’s education, has been the importance of technology. As I mentioned before, we have traveled quite a bit, and my daughter has had the opportunity to experience the school environment in quite a few countries. One thing we found to be pretty consistent was the use of technology in the classroom. To be honest, as far as I’m concerned, it actually made things easier for Christine. Having a tech-savvy Dad, Christine has always been a little ahead of her peers when it comes to computers, and I think the fact that she knew what was going on with computers really gave her the confidence boost that she needed, even in the new school environment, to settle in quickly and make new friends. From Kazakhstan to Columbia, we found her understanding of technology to be a particularly useful skill.In fact, in countries like the United Kingdom and the States, there are even guidelines for the technological skills that prekindergarten to grade 2 children require.
(Established by the International Society for Technology in Education (ISTE), these standards are for children ages prekindergarten through second grade)
- Use input devices (e.g., mouse, keyboard, remote control) and output devices (e.g., monitor, printer) to successfully operate computers, VCRs, audiotapes, and other technologies.
- Use a variety of media and technology resources for directed and independent learning activities.
- Communicate about technology using developmentally appropriate and accurate terminology.
- Use developmentally appropriate multimedia resources (e.g., interactive books, educational software, elementary multimedia encyclopaedias) to support learning.
- Work cooperatively and collaboratively with peers, family members, and others when using technology in the classroom.
- Demonstrate positive social and ethical behaviors when using technology.
- Practice responsible use of technology systems and software.
- Create developmentally appropriate multimedia products with support from teachers, family members, or student partners.
- Use technology resources (e.g., puzzles, logical thinking programmes, writing tools, digital cameras, drawing tools) for problem-solving, communication, and illustration of thoughts, ideas, and stories.
- Gather information and communicate with others using telecommunications, with support from teachers, family members, or student partners.
With regards to social development:
To start with some educators expressed concern that computers might reduce socialization, however, researchers now suggests that computers actually increase the amount of communication and positive interaction between children. For example, studies have found that children participated in interactions with others during 63% of computer play versus 7% of puzzle play. We must remember that computers can offer a unique environment that might encourage children who typically do not interact with others to do so. Children engage in diverse social interactions when using the computer including
- asking for help
- giving direction
- providing information, assistance and instruction
- taking turns
- acknowledging others
- sharing opinions and thoughts
Although children seem to naturally assist each other when using the computer, some suggestions for computor use can help to ensure that social development is positively impacted. These include implementing rules such as
- pair work (children have to share computer time and work together)
- helping each other (including discussing problems first to find a solution)
- taking turns (taking turns to use the mouse to implement to desired action)
Another benefit of technology in relation to social development is the fact that having an understanding of the basic principles can encourge a child to step forward into some kind of a leadership role while in the classroom environment. If your child knows what to do, they may feel confident enough to step forward and set about helping their peers, and in doing so, build up their own self-confidence and ability to express themselves.
With regards to cognitive development:
As a tool, the computer has several advantages that can aid in your little one’s cognitive development.
- Computers are fun for young children, increasing the time spent on task orientated activities.
- Computer programmes designed specifically for children provide consistent and frequent reinforcement in a way which is meaningful to a child.
- Computers allow children to work at their own pace, and increase that pace as and when appropriate.
- Software programs are often very effective at making ‘school-type’ subjects seem more interesting and less like work, encouraging children to spend more time and put more effort into the work. This usually results in better results, and a greater feeling of accomplishment as a result.
- Computers provide a unique opportunity to introduce children to a wide range of resources that they will need in later schooling situations and life in general, such as the internet.
Of course, it is important to keep in mind that computer time is only going to be as educational as the content being used or the activities being done.
Keeping your kids safe
One of any parents biggest worry when it comes to technology is the safety of their child or children. This is totally understandable. Luckily, there are many things that we as parents can do to minimize the risk to our families.
- Be involved – consider activities you can work on together, be it playing a game, researching a topic that you have been discussing (In our house this is what we do if Christine asks a question we don’t know the answer to. My usual reply will be ‘well, let’s go ask Mr. Google’)This allows you to supervise your child’s online activities while teaching them good computer habits.
- Keep your computer in an open area – If your computer is in a high-traffic area, you will be able to easily monitor the computer activity. Not only does this accessibility deter a child from doing something they know they are not allowed to do, it also gives you the opportunity to intervene if you notice a behavior that could have negative consequences.
- Set rules and warn about dangers – Make sure your child knows the boundaries of what they may and may not do on the computer. These boundaries should be age-appropriate, and suitable to their level of knowledge, and maturity. Include rules about how long each child is allowed to be on the computer, what sites they may visit, what software programs they may use, and what tasks or activities they are allowed to do.
- Keep lines of communication open – Let your child know that he/she can approach you with any questions or concerns about behaviors or problems they may have encountered on the computer.
- Consider partitioning your computer into separate accounts – Most operating systems give you the option of creating a different user account for each user. If you’re worried that your child may accidentally access, modify, and/or delete your files, you can give them a separate account and decrease the amount of access and number of privileges that account has.
- Consider implementing parental controls – you may want to set some parental controls within your browser. For example, Internet Explorer allows you to restrict or allow certain websites to be viewed on your computer, and you can protect these settings with a password (To find those options, click Tools on your menu bar, select Internet Options, choose the Content tab, and click the Enable… button under Content Advisor)There are other resources you can use to control and/or monitor your child’s online activity. Some ISPs offer services designed to protect children online. Contact your ISP to see if any of these services are available. There are also special software programs you can install on your computer. Different programs offer different features and capabilities, so you can find one that best suits your needs.
- Additional software – these are some of the best out there: K9 Web Protection, NetNanny, BrowseControl
I hope you found this information helpful, and I hope that I have managed to put some of your fears to rest. The most important thing to remember is that with proper parental guidance, technology can become one of your child’s biggest allies in the fight for knowledge!
If you’ve enjoyed this article, please consider sharing it with your friends and family, and don’t forget to check out the rest of my weblog here (brightnbrainy.com). Thanks!