Are You and Your Child Computer Ready?If you’re like most households, you own a personal computer (PC) or laptop.  As a parent, you may have noticed your young child growing curious of this piece of hardware by pulling on your mouse or banging on the keyboard as you try to research something on the internet or type an email.

Your child seems ready to explore the computer and all that it has to offer, but what steps do you take to introduce it to her? Here are some guidelines you can follow to ensure your child is learning at an age appropriate level:

By the time children are three, they are learning the alphabet, colours and counting. They are learning the basics of literacy and mathematics, which makes this a good time to teach them the basics of the computer. Introduce your child to the numbers and letters on the keyboard and show her how to use the mouse.

When your child is familiar with how to turn the computer on, use basic key functions and how to use a mouse, you can introduce simple software. Introduce software that promotes learning and hand and eye coordination through puzzles, stories and games that allow her to explore through clicking the mouse or hitting a key on the keyboard.

Once children reach kindergarten and grade one, the computer can help enhance typing and written communication skills. Teach your child how to compose a letter or story using such programs as Microsoft Word or ClarisWorks for Kids. This may also be a good time to teach her how to use email and explore the Internet.

The Internet is a great resource for researching, learning and emailing grandma, but it should be approached with caution. Unfortunately, while it provides many excellent tools for learning, the Internet can open the door to predators and inexplicit content. It’s therefore important to:

  • Communicate the potential dangers with all of your children, no matter what age. Teach them not to provide personal information online including their real name, address or phone number.
  • Place the computer in a public area of the house such as the kitchen or living room.  This allows you to monitor the content your children are viewing.
  • Never leave your young children alone on the Internet.
  • Place a time limit on computer and Internet use.  Decide how long your children are allowed on the computer and Internet and if there are days that are off limits. For example, you may want to limit the computer to one hour a night for homework time and during the week only.
  • Set search engine portal (ex. Google) filters to “family friendly” in order to block inappropriate content.
  • Consider password protecting your computer to ensure your young children don’t go on the Internet or the computer when you are not home.

Computers have become an important tool for learning, working and socializing in today’s society. Being computer literate is a vital skill, but it’s up to you to teach her how to use this tool responsibly.