If your child is begging for a computer, it might be time to look at the request as a necessity rather than a luxury. Beyond games and popular kids’ websites, computers allow kids to investigate areas of interest, connect with friends and relatives, and even provide the required functions for successfully completing schoolwork.
In many school districts, teachers make the assumption that kids have ready access to a computer. For those who do not have one at home, this may mean staying after school for computer access and waiting their turn until one is available. Typewritten rather than handwritten essays and other assignments are the norm from middle school on. Teachers may send kids to certain websites for information needed to complete an assignment or to give a list of websites where they found answers to homework questions. Many schools have websites where assignments are posted daily so there is no excuse for not knowing what to do for homework. Grade school students exchange email addresses so they can work on group assignments.
According to Teacher Tap, it’s essential for kids to understand that, along with valuable information they will find on the Internet, they will also find material that is filled with opinions, misconceptions and inaccuracies. Learning how to evaluate information, to locate reliable sources and to judge the quality of websites is an essential skill that can carry over to non-computer related areas, such as listening to a TV ad for a politician or reading a newspaper article.
Even preschoolers can learn computer basics, such as knowing about the mouse, the keyboard and printer and understand the concept of email. In many school settings, small children without access to a computer may already be behind when they start school. Many grade school kids can create simple power point presentations. And from middle school on up, teachers expect that students will be able to use the computer for a variety of research-based assignments.
A variety of computer-related skills may help children with specific needs. For example, children who have delayed development of their small motor skills find it frustrating to compose little stories, given all the hard work it takes to write their letters; however, putting those same kids at a computer increases their motivation to write. Patricia Hutinger, writing for Western Illinois University, notes that children with disabilities might watch other kids using software for a few weeks and then take off using the skills they’ve observed the children using. Some kids plagued by poor spelling have renewed confidence in their written work when they can use a spell-check feature.
Parents need to set limits about just how much non-school-related time they want their children to spend on the computer. In addition, parents will want to decide how much supervision their kids need while using the computer; instead of kids housing computers in their rooms, some parents opt for one shared computer located in the kitchen or family room. According to All About Vision, focusing on images on a computer screen causes more eye fatigue than reading, and although heredity is a major factor in kids developing myopia, eyestrain can also be a contributing factor. They suggest that every 20 minutes kids should take their eyes away from the computer and look at something 20 feet away for 10 seconds.