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Introducing Your Child To Computers and Online Time
There is no particular age that you should introduce your child to technology and the family computer. This decision can be based upon the way it fits into your family’s lifestyle and how you use this to interact and engage your children with it. Computers, tablets and smartphones are various devices children use during screen time, to play games including educational activities, as well as fun activities, and depending on their age, socialising.
There are many categories within screen time in regards to how your children learn to use the computer. This includes the amount of interactive consumption, and how they can communicate effectively and safely whilst using these technological devices.
For many children, they may be introduced to the family computer at only a few weeks of age sitting on their parents lap whilst they are working or socialising. It is not until around 6 months of age when a baby’s vision has increasingly developed that children will actually notice what is happening on the screen. It is then that they will be more aware of colours and sounds, as before that age, they don’t have the physical skills or attention span to interact with these devices.
As with any other activity, you can start introducing the computer to a young child when they show interest in it, around the age of 1 or 2. They may show interest in your computer screen and the sounds it makes, or the noise of the keyboard as you type. They will, however, not have the ability and fine motor skills to be able to use and control a mouse.
Once your child is around the age of 3 to 4, they will show more signs of interacting with technology, and after being shown, will want to play games, watch various shows and video clips, and read interactive stories. They will also have the skills to play basic games and puzzles. It is during this time that a child can be taught the basics of using a mouse and have an understanding of how and why they need to use a keyboard. Children at this age will be starting to learn colours, shapes, letters and numbers, and may be able to recognise these on the screen. This is a good way of helping expand their vocabulary and memory skills.
As well as educational activities, it is good to introduce musical and artistic software and games to allow them to enhance their creative skills. Around the age of 4 to 5, children are being exposed to computers and technological devices within their preschools and primary schools. It is during this age that they are able to use a mouse more independently, and should have the ability to use a computer on their own with basic operational skills.
It is recommended that children around the age of 4 to 5, should not be using technological devices for more than half an hour at a time, and an hour for a 6 to 7 year old. Many games and interactive activities for children around this age are both educational and fun to use. This includes games and activities that require creative skills such as drawing and making music, and interactive puzzles. Many websites and apps require parental involvement to be able to read instructions as well as having the skills to type something into a search engine.
It is around this age between 6 to 7 when a child has interest in using a computer both at school and at home, that you should be introducing the importance of internet safety to them. Children can come across inappropriate content whilst online very easily, as well as dangerous people and sites. It is extremely useful to teach children the importance of internet safety.
A child around the age of 8 to 9 may start to use the computer to socialise and communicate with their friends within social media and games. There are various risks that children can encounter accidentally, such as content risks – finding images of cruelty to animals or inappropriate images, and contact risks – coming into contact with people they don’t know who could be harmful. Children need to know how these risks can be harmful and inappropriate for them.
There are various ways you could explain internet safety, such as the importance of never giving out personal information unless an adult is present. Check that games, websites and television shows online are appropriate for your child, and check privacy settings by using parental controls and safe search settings on internet browsers and apps.
Once a child has reached pre teenage years, they may be more interested in socialising online and using the computer to play games. They will more than likely want to set up an email account, which is recommended to have some adult supervision involved. This is also a good time to explain the difference between spam and unsolicited mail. Children aged between 5 and 12 are recommended to have no more than 2 hours of screen time a day. It is important to emphasise this, as too much electronic media can have a negative impact on children’s behaviour.