Teaching children to use a computer may seem like a thing of the past. More often than not, today’s kids may be born with some form of technicial device attached to their hands once they enter the world, but there are many benefits of teaching your child how to use a computer at an early age. Most teachers will expect their students to be some what familiar with using a computer or even fully expect a child has their own type of computing device at home.
But at what age should a child be let loose on Dad’s workstation? And once she’s on it, what is there for her to do?
There really is no set age for a parent to start teaching their child how to use a computer. It really all depends on the child and the parent. It’s not unusual to see a child as young as four being able to make their way around websites catered to their age group, not is it wrong for a parent to wait until the child has grown a little, perhaps using the computer as tool in responsibility.
The best time to decide would be based on what your child is doing now. Does he want to see what Mommy is doing at the desk during the day? Does she ask Daddy different questions on how to use a computer? A child interests can sometimes wax and wane as they begin to get older, so if they are showing an interest now in how a computer works, it may be time to address that.
By no means should you force your child into learning how to use a computer, especially if they haven’t started schooling yet or in the first few grades. If they don’t have the interest now, forcing them to learn will take the fun out of exploring the online world that awaits them.
Which computer to use?
Here is the next big question – which computer should you be teaching your child on? That's not to say should you be teaching them Apple or Windows (though learning both can be helpful), the question asks on which computer in your home should you be teaching little Junior on?
This is an important question as the computer you teach a child on will be the one they will want to continue to use, despite anyone else being on it. In other words, not a good idea to use the work computer or the one that has all the family finances and pictures on. However, if you only have one computer in the home, you can still teach your child on it. Just remember to set down rules – depending on the age of the child, tell them they can be on the computer only if they ask and only if Mom or Dad isn't working on something. Tell them that they have to have a grown up with them in order to get on the computer.
The most important thing to this is – if you have the option of separate accounts, use them. If you never put a password on your own account, now is the time to do so and make it a password that your child will have to work at in order to guess (hint, don't use the name of the dog or the family's last name as a password). This will not only protect your files and anything that you may have, it will protect your child from seeing anything that is for 'adults only'.
Their own computer?
Perhaps the lone computer in the house is much too important to let small hands touch and navigate. With computers as popular as they are, the ability to find a child computer is well in hand. A trip to the local Toys R Us or even a Google search will turn up very reasonable computers aimed at teaching children to use the computer.
And certainly, buying a new computer doesn’t have to necessarily happen. Talk to family and friends and see if there’s an extra and possibly older computer they are willing to either share or give up entirely. Many businesses or offices when they start to upgrade their computers and systems may have computers they are willing to sell cheaply.
Make having their own computer something special, like a reward for doing chores or getting along with siblings. This is great for older kids, as it shows their budding responsibilities and that they are ready for more tasks that you can count on them for.
The best way to teach your child how to use a computer is to steer them in the direction of kid friendly websites, usually those based on television they watch. Sites like Noggin and Nick Jr have fun activities that teach kids things like numbers, the alphabet, and shapes can also help teach them the keys on a keyboard.
For slightly older kids, like those about to enter junior high or even high school, websites and programs that help them learn how to type without looking at their hands or the keyboard will come in handy for the later years when they turn in more papers and reports. There are many free programs as well as paid software that will teach your child – or even you! – the placement of the hands on the keyboard and where their fingers should be on a given key.
Until your child is an appropriate age to navigate the web by themselves, always make sure you know where they are in cyberspace. Just like when you have them tell you when they are at a friend’s home, make sure you know where your child is online. This by no means you should hover over their shoulder, but make sure certain ‘sites’ are blocked, especially for young eyes. When teaching children to use a computer, let your child know what is appropriate for them to view and what isn’t.