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Saturday, August 20, 2011

Computers and Kids

Many parents have questions about their children and computers. What do experts recommend? When should children begin to use computers? What should parents look for when buying computer games and software for young children? How can parents and children grow together with the use of technology? Are there any educational benefits for young children in using computers? It's such an important part of our life now but you want your children to not "play" on the computer either.  You want them to use it as a learning tool.  Here is some important information that I gathered that I thought could be very helpful.

When should children start using computers?

Many researchers do not recommend that children under 3 years of age use computers. During this time, children need strong, positive interactions with other children and adults. They learn through their bodies— their eyes, ears, mouths, hands and legs. Computers are not a good choice for supporting the developmental skills such as crawling, walking and talking that these children are learning to master.

The National Association for the Education of Young Children (NAEYC) is an organization that sets standards of excellence for programs for children from birth through age eight. Their research shows that computers can have important benefits for even very young children, including language development, literacy development, social development, and the development of important problem-solving skills. However, computers are most beneficial when parents and teachers provide appropriate guidance, when computer use is related to other kinds of learning, when high-quality software is used, and when children work on the computer with peers or adults.

The following specific recommendations from NAEYC about the use of computers with young children are based on both current research in child development and the professional opinions of early childhood educators.

■Computers should supplement--and not replace--activities and materials such as art, sand, water, books, music, outdoor exploration, experimenting with writing materials, dramatic play, and socializing with other children.

■Parents should guide children's use of computers. Be on hand to help your child, answer questions, and interact with your child as she works on the computer.

■Take the time to observe and participate in computer activities to gain an understanding about how your child thinks and learns. Observing children at the computer can reveal much about the way children are thinking and solving problems.

■Work with your child on the computer, and encourage him to work with a sibling or friend whenever possible. Using computers with others encourages important social skills, such as turn-taking and cooperation, and helps build your child's ability to speak and listen.

■Learn more about software for young children, and carefully preview the software your child uses. While there are many high-quality products available, some software is not appropriate for young children because it is difficult to use, highlights violent themes, or does not foster language or learning.

Walking up a store aisle filled with brightly-colored boxes of children's computer software can be overwhelming for parents. With so many options, how can you be sure to select high-quality software that is easy to use and most likely to foster your child's development? Experts agree that ideal software for young children is easy to use and provides opportunities for interaction, repetition, discovery, and making choices.

Consider the following simple guidelines next time you select software for your child. In addition, consult your local librarian or talk with your child's teacher to get some specific software recommendations. Remember to preview software before your child uses it to ensure that it is appropriate.

What to look for when choosing software:
■Start out with simple "point and click" software that just requires your child to move the cursor on an object and click to make something happen. This kind of software will help your child learn how to move the mouse and will provide a successful first experience.

■Once your child is familiar with the computer, choose software that encourages exploration, imagination, and creativity. Even young children can explore the varied features of drawing and writing programs successfully.

■Look for software that involves the senses by incorporating sound, music, and voice.

■Choose software that helps to bridge the home-school gap. Find out what the children are learning at school and select software that reinforces the same themes or concepts.

■Select software that allows children to repeat activities, review, and reflect on what they already know. Ask them to explain what they are doing and encourage them to share what they know.

■Look for software that contains a variety of activities and levels so that your child can move on to another level or activity when he's ready.

What to avoid when choosing software:
■Avoid "drill and practice" software, or software that focuses on a few skills in a repetitive manner. Likewise, avoid programs that emphasize competition. Children are more likely to learn when they work cooperatively. Instead, choose programs that allow two to play together.

■Avoid software programs or games that depict violence as fun or as a way to solve problems. Instead, choose software that promotes cooperation and positive interpersonal relationships.

■Avoid flashing images or software with many moving graphics. These can interfere with a young child's ability to pay attention to tasks that require sustained attention.

Information brought to you by PBSparents and education.com

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