Wee Scoops

Measure for Measure

Children and Computers: Generating a Parenting Policy

There have been some interesting comments on my last couple of posts – this is an answer to some of them – just as a description of where I am when it comes to computers.

What place should computers have in the home?

I have various vague policies and practices, and am interested in what people think about children and technology.

My first instinct is that staring at a screen does no one any good – be it a TV screen, a movie screen or a computer screen. Fans of computers (such as myself) like the interactive element, but younger children I think should not be interacting with the media, really.

My children know about internet safety and keeping their names secret, and the school reinforces this message. The Scottish curriculum deals with skills over content and critical thinking skills are embedded from early on.  The only interactions they have, potentially, are in “Club Penguin”, although they don’t really hang out there.

They tend to use the computer to access complementary materials from the BBC to go with TV shows they have watched. There might be a game to play, or trump cards to print, or back episodes to look at again.

The only other use is for research, but I ensure that there is no cutting and pasting. They have to read and take notes and attribute sources. We also have discussions about the reliability of sources – and they are well aware of that issue –  because of the number of obscure things that I turn out to be the top hit on – so they should not trust anything they read, largely.

So saying, this is all at a very basic level.

On a couple of occasions I have had my son write for this blog, just to give him a sense of audience.

Computers are only used in public areas.

Notably, unlike for adults, computer use for children is not a solitary activity. Usually it is in a help-with-homework context, or with another child that  they want to watch a show or download an activity with.

As a parent, I try to use the computer when the children are in bed, or when I am cooking or baking and waiting around the kitchen, although my eldest has rebuked me for blogging too often. I excuse myself on the grounds that I am modelling commitment to writing and reflection, and reading and thought. He could well have a point though. I also often write blog posts just after the children have eaten and they go off and play.

This could be why my kitchen has a chronic untidiness problem…




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6 thoughts on “Children and Computers: Generating a Parenting Policy

  1. Rickster on said:

    At some point in the next decade, the word ‘computer’ will cease to have any meaningful context. Computers will be ubiquitous. So attempting to limit ‘computer time’ will become increasingly pointless. I have a computer in my phone, I use a computer to access the photos I take, I use a computer when I listen to music, increasingly I use a computer to watch TV, listen to radio, send messages to people, communicate with them in any manner except face-to-face, I have a computer (Kindle) which I read books on, etc. I think even my washing machine has a computer in it. Aside from canoeing and hill-walking, almost every activity I engage in involves a computer in some way.

    What am I saying? The computer itself is not the problem. The ‘screen’ is also not the problem. Its not even that ‘the internet’ is the problem (again, this word will cease to have meaning soon enough). The issue is how to protect your children from some of the things out there on the internet, without having to actually explain to them what it is you are protecting them from. And that is really tricky. And after saying all that, I don’t really have a solution. Sorry.

    • I nearly said a lot of that, but ran out of steam – with any luck there’ll be an influx of tablets around here, and this rickety old lap-top can get binned.
      But, yes to all the above.
      Although – on what you are protecting them from, I am always very blunt.
      But then… I am always very blunt 😉

      • Rickster on said:

        I don’t have a problem explaining the thing about ‘bad people’ on the internet and how to avoid them on ‘Moshi Monsters’, chat rooms, etc. Where I do have the problem is explaining how to stay away from age-inappropriate content. I worry about how good the ‘safe search’ setting is on Google everytime R searches for images with innocent content like ‘girls toys’…

    • We crossed that bridge when Son of sanstorm had to research Viking women. What a hoot.

  2. I think that children learn by example and when they see their parent happy, they do see the good for the family after a time. I have to qualify the age of the children, the younger one’s don’t really care if Mom is happy as long as they are. When they get older, around the teen years, they start appreciating Mom’s happiness. So when they see Mom doing something that makes her happy, they get it.

  3. theotheri on said:

    It all sounds like incredibly good, caring, common sense parenting to me. Whatever you do, in the end your children are going to have to make their own independent decisions, and I can’t think of anything better for you to do that you aren’t doing.

    Personally, I 100% approve of the blunt approach most of the time as well. Or perhaps I should say I have always found the explicit unembarrassed approach a lot easier to deal with than suggestions that there’s something I shouldn’t know. It always just sends me underground to find out what it is.

    This is not essentially a computer-related issue. But you might consider discussing it with him if your son thinks you are spending too much time on the computer. He’s just approaching that age when he can begin to understand that others have needs and points of view that are different from his, so you might be able to talk about how to balance his rights and needs with yours. I would think of it as early practice for when he has an equal partner of his own.

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