Is Your Child Computer Savvy?
is a myth that children MUST learn how to use the computer. This is a skill
that will no doubt help him later on in life, but it is also something
that can be picked up later on. Using a computer is literally child's play
- it is the programming aspect that gets a bit complicated. So if your
child is not computer inclined, don't push him to understand technical
terms. However, if he shows an interest in learning how to use computers,
encourage this interest. Don't look at the computer as an end in itself.
Look at it as a means to help increase your child's general knowledge and
sharpen his skills.
If you have
a basic PC at home, you could get your child started on the Paint programme.
Show him the basics; show him how he can open and close the programme.
Familiarise him with the toolbox and show him how he can select colours.
Let him learn the rest by practise. His drawings don't have to make sense
- they could be nothing more than nonsensical scribbling, but this is how
he will pick up.
This is one
of the easiest ways to familiarise your child with the computer, the keyboard
and other controls. Most children love playing computer games, and such
games also improve hand and eye co-ordination. However, it is equally important
that your child indulges in some physical activity as well, and computer
games should be supplemented with something more physical like tennis or
swimming. Enrol your child in a sports class, and when he returns, let
him rest, eat, and then sit in front of the computer. This will inculcate
This is a common
yet needless worry amongst most parents. Watching television is not exactly
a social activity either, but parents tend to worry more about the influence
of programmes on a child's mind than about the anti-social aspect. Computers,
on the other hand, do provide opportunity for bonding, especially by way
of computer games. Get games that are required to be played with an opponent.
Encourage your child to call his friends over to play computer games.
If you are
unfamiliar with the computer yourself, now is a good time to learn. Sit
with your child and explore the programmes together. You will be delighted
to see that he picks up faster than you do! Get your child interactive
Are you uneasy with the thought of letting your child browse the Internet? There is a vast amount of information out there, and adult sites constitute barely 3% of these sites. It would thus be a shame to discourage your child from net surfing. Instead:
Perhaps we should look at computer literacy as the ability to apply computers and related technology to thinking critically to solve a problem, creating a solution and ultimately producing a product. That product may be a document, a presentation, a device or some other outcome. There is an old theory that has recently regained the right to be discussed seriously called "Multiple Intelligences". One of the biggest proponents of this theory is Howard Gardner, a professor at the Harvard Graduate School of Education.
The basic idea of the theory is that every child must be taught differently, because children understand the world in different ways. Some examples of the different types of intelligence include linguistic, musical, logical-mathematical, spatial, bodily kinesthetic, and personal. Gardner suggests that classrooms be filled with apprenticeships, projects and technologies, where students can develop true understanding through hands-on applied learning, and be given the opportunity to develop their learning style under whichever intelligence best suits them. In a digital world, where computers allow children to develop a learning pattern based upon their own intelligence in a non-threatening way, full-frontal, asynchronous teaching environments cannot-and do not-grab their attention. Does your child need to have logical-mathematical intelligence in order to become computer literate? Absolutely not. So what can you do to teach your child appropriate computer skills? Most importantly, make sure that your child is learning how to apply technology to help him or her think critically, problem-solve, work collaboratively and ultimately use a variety of technologies that can help them invent, create and ultimately produce. While there are good software packages available to develop these skills for all types of intelligences, finding the right titles is the key.
A lot of kids are getting online these days--sharing data about acid rain, talking about social issues, meeting adults as well as kids, and learning about other cultures. There seems to be one of everything on the network. Just like any other form of media, the quality of this massive collection of information is uneven and unverifiable, and just like any bookstore, there is both good information and smut. Computer networks hold tremendous promise; however, it's also home to people who don't have good intentions, who use their own anonymity to hurt others or their technical knowledge to steal from them.
Not only are
there unsavory individuals lurking out there in cyberspace, there are whole
Web sites waiting to entice the immature, the easily swayed, and the vulnerable.
Hate groups, for example, have discovered that the Net is an effective
place to reach vast numbers. Some Web pages can teach your kids many useful
and fun things, but bomb-making is probably not high on your list of activities
for a Saturday afternoon.
This raises difficult issues which need to be discussed openly in your home. Can children be prevented from accessing materials which are controversial? Is preventing access even desirable? What alternatives do we have or could we provide? How do we talk with children about these issues? How and by whom are community standards set? Unfortunately, much of the publicity related to these issues has only dealt with potential dangers--and has not encouraged reflection on creative solutions.
The solution which gets the most exposure is the use of programs which block offensive sites, so it may be helpful to describe how these programs work. First, each of these programs are set to screen out certain words which are likely to appear on "adult" sites. On it's face, this may seem like a good idea, but beware, the same programs which screen out sex sites also screen out sites related to Essex, England, as well as those related to breast cancer, sexual harassment, sextons, "keeping abreast of new ideas," and so on. Second, the programs screen out specific web sites which the company determines are "unsuitable." Keep in mind that sensibilities of the software company may not match your own. One company, for example, screens the Heritage Foundation web site because it feels the organization is too conservative, while another screens the National Organization of Women because it feels the organization is too liberal. What's more, purveyors of both pornographic and other sites inappropriate to young people are clever at using words with double meanings that may appear innocuous to an electronic scanner, and filters can screen neither graphic elements containing explicit words or pictures nor email messages from individuals who mean to do harm.
In the end, filtering programs simply don't do the job. Not only do they fail to block all objectionable site, they also take away the defining role of the parent in children's education. A child who downloads pornographic or hate sites can only be corrected by positive family influence and parental willingness to instill a constructive value system through family communication. No filtering program is necessary for a child who has learned to say "no" to sites she knows are inappropriate for her.
Today, when children are exposed to technology at a young age, parents often find themselves lagging behind their children in computer skills. Surprisingly, this may be the key to your involvement. What better way to learn about the Internet then to do so alongside your child? They'll most likely pick it up more quickly than you do, of course, but along the way you'll have the chance to see, and take pride in, your child at work. Search for information related to your child's homework together and get to know the "friends" your child has on-line, just as you would get to know her other friends.
In the end,
the truth is that only YOU know the standards you want your children to
follow, only YOU can judge what's acceptable for the ages and maturity
levels of your kids, and only YOU can decide if your kids can handle anything
they see or if you might want to enlist some help. Take time to review
the resources and tips combining supervision and communication, which thoughtful
parents have used to take advantage of the Internet as a resource while
protecting their children, and HAVE FUN WITH IT!
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