Children and Computers
cultivated by community
So, how do you all feel about computers and children? I have sworn that my child will not use a computer until they are older - first I think children need to be children and that computers are similar to TV and second, I spend too much time at my computer with work and I just don't want my children doing that.
Now, that's fine to believe but I also realize the learning potential involved with computers and their interactive nature and the fact that our world is immersed in computers. So, my problem? Well, my son has been exposed to computers via friends recently and since he also sees Mommy and Daddy at work on their own computers everday he's REALLY expressing an interest in having "his computer." Well, we've been putting it off and telling him that we don't have a computer for him except that my father just gave us his computer for my son to use and, unfortunately, we didn't express to grandparents how we felt and so they told him and now he knows that this is "his computer"...
So, I'm at a loss of how to handle the computer issue. My son REALLY wants to learn to play it and see things on it, we have a couple games people have given us so this morning I put on a Sesame Street one and he loves it. I cringe at the thought.
We've always had a computer, but my son didn't have a software until he was 6. All the software we have is quality educational software - NOT edutainment where you blow things up and spell a word! I feel the same way you do but I disagree with the waldorf attitude which is that computer use requires specific logical thinking to use...before point and click I'd say that was true, but not anymore. At Tyren's age I really like him having access to the web - the LEGO site for example is wonderful and he enters story writing contests, develops new stuff to build etc. I'd say he spends about 4 hours a week at the computer right now...at his peak its beeen about 8 hours. Surprisingly he's cut back computer time on his own when we got rid of the TV. I think it supports the same kind of passive behaviour, but its not exactly the same.
Also, my son has naturally improved his reading skills, and research skills thanks to following his interests on the web. I don't see the difference between looking things up online, or using a book - except that the web has MORE info and leads to more library exploration.
I have mixed feelings too, but I intend to use it as an educational tool and refuse the garbage out there they try to pass off as "learning software" and such. I honestly don't see the value of children using a computer for games. I think it is to easy to rely on them as a replacement for real games like board games, physical play, and other "real" outlets. It isn't that I think computer play in and of itself is a bad thing but the line, for me, is too easily crossed. For that reason, we will never have the Sega type or gameboy games here in our house. But as far as computer use, we do let my daughter sit down already and "type letters" to Grandma and such - but we don't go buy the Blues Clues type things.
I know that it is easy for me to say this about not having the games since my kids are so young but I really do feel strongly about not bringing them into my house. I know that I am bad enough already "using" the TV as a crutch/babysitter at times, I can only imagine it getting worse so I MUST AVOID TEMPTATION. lol.
Our kids use our computer, but hardly at all really. My son has a game called "Oregon Trail" that he likes, but my daughter is not interested. I'd really rather they didn't use it (or the TV) at all, or at least not until it was for research (i.e...they'd already know how to read). The 8th grade at our school is building computers. They're taking parts, and learning how to MAKE a computer...very cool.
The one thing I AM opposed to, is rampant computer use in schools. Children do NOT NEED to know how to use a computer. Technology changes SO damn fast that any "skills" they aquire at age 8 will be completely obsolete 5 years later.
Here's a collection of links I have about computers and children:
An Alternative View on Why, When and How Computers Should Be Used in Education
Alliance for Childhood
US News Column
Learning in the RealWorld
Boston Globe Column
The Computer Delusion
I almost never let the boys use the computer(s) here.For one thing, there's a heap of stuff I don't want to risk losing on my hard drive. But seriously, I have the sanme reservations that you do. I see television and computers in much the same light - good for a specific pupose, best left alone if you're just "grazing". My husband's elderly aunt passed on her MacIntosh to the boys with a couple of games. I let them try it for just one weekend and then said "ENOUGH!" They spent the entire time hunkered down over the screen, fighting and squabbling over the games and glued to the flickering light, while outside it was a glorious autumn weekend. Our rule now is that you can only use the computer on really wet, really cold weekends. (We have the same rule for afternoon television watching.)
The boys get lots of worthwhile computer access at school - they don't do much skills work as such, but use it to do research and have access to it in their free time and are able to use the school's genuinely educational number and word games. With only 20 students, we have nine computers, so they certainly aren't missing out on anything by not using it at home.
There's something about being hooked into that flickering netherworld that just gives me the heebie jeebies (yes, people in glass houses etc.. etc.. ) particularly with regard to young children. When else in life do you have so few responsibilities and so many opportunities to get to know the world than in childhood? When else are your senses so alive and your mind so open? I strenuously avoided daycare for these reasons, among others, and I see many of the same traps in computers and television used to excess. It would be almost impossible for my children to grow up computer illiterate - but very possible for them to grow up nature-illiterate, imagination-illiterate and media addicted. I was reading an article this weekend about computer games and they drew a parallel with television. The article said something like "just as you disliked the Ninja turtles when your children were small, but the time they're ten, you'll be horrified by "Terminator." Well, I was HORRIFIED at the thought that *any* ten year old would be allowed to watch that kind of grisly crap. And proud that my almost nine year olds have never seen either thing.
You won't keep children away from violence or television or computer use - but you can teach them to self-limit, judge carefully and model using these tools for a purpose.
In your circumstances I would exercise the same strong caution as you would with television. Make sure the time is limited, that you know exactly what your son is doing and that he uses the computer for specific and limited periods. I see the positive effects of this policy with regard to the television at home, and I'm sure computers will be the same. It's unlimited, unsupervised saturation use of the media that does so much damage IMO.
We limit computer time but have encouraged it as another form of play. There is a variety of educational and non-violent software programs on the market. My son uses the mouse and clicks away. He navigates around the different screens. I am there if needs any help. I put in Jumpstart Baby last week and gave my older son the mouse and my younger son the keyboard, and they played together (since in that program ANY mouse click or keystroke counts). It's kind of fun. My older son is more into Jumpstart Preschool, but he hadn't seen the Baby one in awhile and so was into it again.
We intend on using the computer (and the TV) for educational purposes when it comes time to homeschool. While I think kids are perfectly capable of picking up these skills when they are needed, we just have not felt that 1/2 hour of computer time a day is detrimental to him - especially since he is such an active child. I think at least for our family this really works. I respect the decision that others have about no TV/computer, though!