Computer and Your Kid
How to get them started, and how to get them to stop
Odds are that your child is better with a computer than you are. However, in case they are not, we offer some advice on how to make your computer more comfortable for them to use.
Do children really need special equipment to make them comfortable? Probably not, but it’s not a bad idea to get it. Since kids are starting out on computers early, you want to make the experience of learning how to use the computer a comfortable one. Give some attention to ergonomics. Kids are smaller than adult users, and may be happier with products that are designed for them.
What should parents consider when purchasing hardware for kids? First of all, how much is the child going to use the computer? If they will be using it a lot, you might want to think about buying a smaller mouse. Another question would be how old is the child? A preschooler’s fingers probably aren’t big or strong enough to manipulate a mouse for an extended period of time, whereas older kids, between seven and eight years old, can probably safely use an adult mouse. When a child is sitting at a computer, his or her wrists and arms should be fairly flat. Check to see if your child is “aligned” properly. If not, you may want to look into products, such as wrist rests or special hand rests, that can snap onto your mouse.
Also, the issue might not be with what you buy, but with how you use it. What kind of chair is the child using? If the chair is too low, the child will have to strain to reach for the keyboard, which, over time, can cause back and neck problems. You may want to investigate buying a chair that is designed for kids.
How should parents go about buying these items? It’s a great idea to take the kids shopping with you. Let kids test-drive products, and listen to them when they tell you something is uncomfortable. At the same time, take their suggestions with a grain of salt. Often, kids just want to get what looks cool.
Are there any special rules about how long kids should stay on the computer? Kids probably have to take breaks more often than adults. Every 15 minutes is a good rule. You don’t have to make them feel as though you’re nagging them, either. If, for example, your child is working on a drawing program, ask him or her to print out the finished picture and be ready with crayons or pens to color it in. If kids are playing a game in teams, the 15-minute break is a good time to get up, move around, and trade sports. Remember, computing can be an isolating, sedentary activity! Make sure kids are socializing and exercising enough.
Fun fact: computer and technology camps are hot spots for technologically inclined tots.