As a tech teacher, I constantly chat with parents about computers and their kids. Some are afraid to allow their children access to the
computer and want suggestions on how to make internetting specifically and computer use in general a positive experience for their little one. After ten years of teaching technology, I can tell you without doubt that school can no longer be done without a computer. They’re used for:
- homework, starting in around 2nd grade–sooner in some cases
- communication with the teacher–it may be difficult to reach a teacher on the phone or catch them between classes, but the teachers I know commit to responding to all email within 24 hours. If that isn’t fast enough, then definitely, hang out by their classroom
- research–I teach 2nd graders basic research on the computer and I may be a year late. Your children are seeing it in school, hearing about it from friends. They’ll want to access information on classroom topics via your computer. Let them spread their fingers and go.
- finding out what’s going on around school. Most schools have lots of administrative material online, sports dates, shows, events. Children feel comfortable at their school when they understand the environ. Enjoying school means they learn to love learning.
So how do you make sure your child’s internet experience is positive? I have a few simple rules that will help you as you walk that minefield:
- Have them go on the internet only around you. Yes, it takes extra effort, but there are too many ways even well-meaning kids can get off track to not have you watching their every move. They get excited about lots of topics and don’t understand the concept of pulsing, sparkly ads until fifth grade, maybe even Middle School. When they get off course, rein them in, explain what happened and how to not let it happen in the future. Show them the ‘Back’ button that will take them back to the screen they want to be on
- By all means, filter their internet sites. I never recommend unlimited access to the internet for kids of any age
- If they’ve been online without you (because you considered them mature enough for this action), don’t be afraid to check the history to see where they went. You’re not spying on your children; you’re making sure everything is OK, kind of like checking in on them while they sleep. Here’s how you do it:
- In Forefox, go to History-show all history
- In IE, hold the Control key (Ctrl) and push H. That brings up a sidebar with the sites they’ve visited. (that shortkey also works in Firefox)
- Don’t be afraid they’ll physically break the computer or delete an important program. If they’re young enough to do that, they’re of an age parents need to be watching them work. It’s harder than you think to mess up a computer. I have twenty-six in my lab and it’s rare in ten years of teaching that students have forced me to reformat a drive (what you must do if the computer gets really messed up).
- As you see which sites your child likes to visit, put them on Favorites. At some point, you can allow them to access any websites under Favorites. They’ll get used to knowing these websites are safe. Do continue to supervise. They still could have pop-ups or links to dangerous locations. For some of the best I’ve seen, check out my Big List of Great Kids Websites. They’re organized by grade level and topic
Do you have any suggestions that work well with your children? Share them under comments.