Whether you're introducing a young child to computing or providing technology access for experienced users, implement these tools as a way to help your child grow, learn—and maybe play a game with Mom and Dad.
Getting to Know You
Kids catch on to the ins and outs of a computer quickly–fast enough that they become the resident tech support experts in many households–but everyone has to start somewhere. Your home desktop system may make a better beginner system than a notebook computer, depending on the size of your child's hands relative to a computer mouse. Getting the hang of a touchpad can be more difficult to learn than the process of using a traditional pointing device. Before you turn a child loose on your system, shut down any applications you're running so an "accident" doesn't wipe out your household budget or accidentally post on social media. For a more portable experience that focuses on touchscreen input, give your child a tablet device instead.
Master of Disaster
Playing computer games with your child gives you a framework through which to spend time together in an activity that both of you can enjoy. If the game models a real-world activity or sport such as baseball, you can use onscreen events as a way to teach your child the fine points of unwritten rules and traditions. “Shoot'em-up” games don't meet the appropriateness test for young children and only you can decide at what age you allow certain types of action into your child's universe. Saving gaming time as a reward for completing chores or schoolwork keeps your child's screen time in balance with physical activity and social interaction.
Software that targets creative self expression teaches your child to use digital tools that may provide advantages in completing school work, hone artistic talents or give him skills to make anything from gifts and drawings to a desktop movie or graphic novel. You can offer "light" versions of full-scale graphic arts programs for young beginners and step them up to the full applications as their mastery increases. Children who take pictures with a digital camera or shoot footage with a camcorder can enhance and edit their stills or movies, which you can display through a Wi-Fi®–enabled home theater system on the HDTV in your living room.
Get With the Program
Along with building computer literacy using software tools, children can begin to learn simple programming through visual tools, and progress to advanced applications as they reach tween or teen status. Some of the reasoning skills required to excel at programming may exceed the brain development of young kids, but if you start with fun activities and keep your focus on encouraging interest rather than forcing engagement, you can help your child gain invaluable skills that can underlie careers and provide another way of expressing creativity.
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