My elementary schooler wants to go online. How young is too young for the computer?
The Internet can be a fantastic resource for curious children. But it also presents access to information wildly inappropriate for school-aged kids. Computer use is fine, and there are plenty of entertaining and learning-based software programs designed for the younger set. My bias is that until age 10, when more mature thinking begins to take hold, Internet access should be heavily restricted. Prior to this age, children are naïve and are easily fooled by advertising gimmicks and catchy visuals. Three steps you can take:
* Block objectionable content by using the parental control features on your computer
* Bookmark certain friendly websites on ‘safe’ topics, such as nature or animals (such as natgeokids.com)
* Cater to your child’s interests by asking for recommendations of related sites from credible resources (teachers or children’s librarian)
Engage your child in the selection of ‘parent-approved’ sites, whether they be educational or purely entertaining. The goal is to make your child a savvy consumer of technology, but within guidelines you, as her parent, set. Use these boundaries to discuss why you have certain rules; it’s a great opportunity to underline your values in a way that will hold your child’s attention.