What's the Right Age to Introduce Your Kid to Computers?

In this day and age, technology is all around us. For the first time in history, kids are growing up in a digital household. From their first long-distance Skype chat with Grandma and Grandpa to their first tablet, kids are experiencing technology in many different forms. There's a lot out there right now about kids using digital devices, but the importance of using a traditional laptop or desktop remains. There are still specific applications — such as graphic design and word processing — that require the use of a traditional computer. As children progress in school, they'll spend more time writing papers and completing homework that requires them to sit in front of a computer screen.

Computers for Kids: What Is the Appropriate Age for a Computer?

Many parents wonder when to start introducing kid-safe computer use and how to explain a computer to a child. Although each family will find slight variations in their practices and preferences when it comes to technology, there are age-specific guidelines to follow as you help your child become knowledgeable and responsible computer users.

If you have young children at home, you will most likely be in the market to purchase a kid-safe computer for the whole family to use. If you buy a laptop, you'll want a laptop case for preschoolers — one that will stand up to the wear and tear kids put on everything in your house.

Infants (0-2)

Parents of infants have priorities other than rushing out to buy their baby a laptop, but as your baby begins exploring the world around them, you'll notice them pushing buttons and responding to the noises and sounds of their electronic toys. Don't let this interest fool you. Children under 3 don't have the physical or cognitive coordination needed to navigate a computer. They won't be able to click a mouse or follow characters around a screen to master an electronic game. Sure, you can include them if you're video chatting with a long-distance friend or watching a music video on YouTube, but you shouldn't allow infants and toddlers to have any regular screen time at this point.

As a parent of a young child, devote the earlies years of their life to helping them have technology-free experiences. Emphasize face-to-face interactions with friends and relatives as much as possible. Encourage interactive play over tablets and television, especially outdoor play. This real-world exploration is going to set a vital foundation for the experiences your child will have and the ways they view technology for the rest of their life.

Preschoolers (3-5)

Whether your child is 2 or 12, it's never too early to begin establishing a safe technology environment at home. Using technology should be an active experience that involves children and their parents at every stage. When your child begins to use a computer, it's time to consider the following.

1. Establish Family Rules and Guidelines for Technology Use

When you use technology appropriately, it can enhance your family's life. But when it gets overused or used inappropriately, it can cause a variety of problems. As soon as your oldest child begins using a computer, it's time to set up a family media plan that outlines expectations about how and when to use technology, and how long they can use it at any one sitting. There's no one-size-fits-all plan. Choose what's best for your family's lifestyle.

If your children are older and you haven't established such a plan, it's not too late! Call a family meeting and draft an approach that incorporates everyone's needs. Then, ask everyone to sign it. When your children are involved in establishing the guidelines, it can make them easier to enforce. Of course, it's not always going to be a complete democracy — you and your partner always have the final say and can amend those rules without a family vote.

2. Provide a Comfortable, Central Location for Computer Use

Set up a central space in your home where children can use the computer. Here is where an ergonomically friendly design comes into play. If your child is younger, they may need a booster seat to use the keyboard or mouse. If they're older, a desk and chair that encourage appropriate posture are essential. Always make sure to set up the computer in an area of the home where you can keep an eye on them as needed. Even older children need the accountability of knowing their parents could walk by at any time.

3. Limit Screen Time and Encourage Alternative Activities

Technology is useful in moderation, but you must set limits for your kids' screen time. Design rules that encourage kids to step away from the computer to play outside, interact with friends face-to-face and complete chores and other responsibilities at home. Think about it this way: Children's experiences shape their brains for the rest of their life. If all they ever do is play games online or waste time surfing the internet, their computer is the only influence that will shape the way their brain functions. However, if the computer is only one of a rich variety of interactions and experiences, their brain will receive a variety of influences that will shape it as they grow and develop.

It's worth noting here that there is a lot of seemingly conflicting and confusing information out there about the impact of technology on children's brains. Some research claims technology is helpful, while other sources cite adverse effects. So what's a parent to do? The technology of the magnitude we are experiencing today is unparalleled. There's a lot we don't know about how it is impacting children. For every benefit, there are equal numbers of potential pitfalls. As a parent, the best thing you can do is encourage your child to participate in a range of experiences, including technology. In short, everything in moderation is the key to successful use of technology at home.

Digital Precautions and Safety Online

Any conversation about computer use among children has to include a discussion about safety. Sadly, all the dark, scary things taking place under the surface can quickly overshadow the good of the internet. So how can you encourage your child to harness the benefits of technology without encountering the downsides?

1. Install High-Quality Virus Protection Software

First and foremost, install a reputable, high-quality virus software that will filter and block nasty viruses and other things people will try to get past your child on the computer. Make a point to run regular scans and update them as needed. Also, teach your child the importance of not clicking on popups or unfamiliar ads that appear while they're online. Once they're old enough to use email, explain why it's never a good idea to click on emails and links from unknown senders.

2. Teach Your Child Not to Share Personal Information Online

One thing children will begin to do online as they grow older is interact with their peers. They might send messages or video chat with friends from school. They will probably spend time on social media. These activities can lead them into interactions with other people they don't know in person. Much of it is harmless, but online interactions have become increasingly dangerous for one simple reason: Many kids don't understand the need to be cautious about people they meet online. Online meetings and interactions are so common for this generation, kids may think they know someone because they've chatted or sent pictures back and forth a few times.

Make a point to have serious — and repeated — conversations with your child about protecting their identity online. Teach them never to share details such as their address, phone number, birthday, school name or passwords online, even with someone they know. And make a point to regularly monitor their online activities. Although kids can be sneaky and you might not be able to catch everything they do online, the accountability of knowing their parents are monitoring them can be a good deterrent.

3. Practice What You Preach

One of the best ways to teach your child appropriate ways to use technology is to model those uses for them. Adhere to the guidelines you've set for your child when it comes to the content you view online, the amount of time you spend in front of the screen and how you treat technology. Yes, you are the parent, and yes, you make the rules — but children learn best by mimicking the behavior they see. Let them see you practicing good habits, and it will encourage them to practice them, too.

Kid-Safe Computer Products

At Higher Ground, we recognize the importance of creating protective products that stand up to use from children of all ages. Whether you're looking for a laptop case for middle school students, a kids' Chromebook case or other items that help as you teach computer basics for kids, our company is here to help. Our high-quality materials and manufacturing practices provide kid-friendly products that will enhance learning at home and at school. Why? We strongly believe in the importance of technology in education, and our goal is to provide products and services that will help teachers and parents provide what their children need to meet their academic goals.

Browse our selection of laptop, tablet and Chromebook cases online. And let us help you find the right product for your needs. Discounts for schools and educators are available. Contact us for more information or browse our products today!

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