The computer has great potential to either help or harm a child. It's up to parents to establish and enforce guidelines so the child will derive maximum benefits while avoiding possible damages from this wonder of modern technology.
This is the age for active play and discovering the marvels of the world around him. Ten minutes playing a simple game with Mom or Dad, at the child's request, should be the limit of the child's time at the computer.
The child will be introduced to basic computer skills at school. He'll be typing some stories and maybe playing educational games during free time.
At home, a choice between television and the computer is a wise option. These activities could be pursued after any homework assignments, and after some active playtime with friends, outside in the fresh air, weather permitting. Approximately half an hour a day would seem a reasonable time allotment.
Of the two choices, the computer may be the wiser option. There are usually some reading or mathematical skills required: instructions for games, or counting points for scores. Games requiring precision can aid in the development of fine motor skills.
This is the age when e-mail could be introduced. Letters composed and typed to grandparents and other relatives have real educational value and also would be welcomed by the recipients.
School work is becoming more demanding, and individual or group projects are popular forms of consolidating the knowledge acquired during lessons. The child will learn how to use Google and other search engines to refresh and enhance information learned in class.
He'll be learning keyboarding skills and how to use spell check and other features on the computer. Since the machine will be required to complete some of the homework, this time should not be rationed as long as a watchful parental eye ensures that it's being used for the purpose intended.
An optional hour for TV or computer games may be allowed, as long as other priorities take precedence: sports, social activities, reading, and chores.
Most young people are quite proficient in computer skills by this time. They know how to do research and are able to type quite quickly and accurately on the keyboard.
Homework using the computer will become a normal occurrence. Having the machine in a central area in the home where family members often pass by should preclude any problems.
This is the time to have a talk with your young person about the possible dangers of using the Internet carelessly. Emphasize that whatever information he enters can be viewed by the world, that there are ways to retrieve everything that has ever been done on a computer, and that there are many unsavory and even dangerous characters out there waiting to take advantage of inexperienced or foolish people.
Computer time may be extended as parental discretion allows, as long as the child maintains his interest and participation in other activities and shows no sign of becoming addicted.
HIGH SCHOOL AND BEYOND
The child is becoming more and more independent, but he still needs parental support and guidance during adolescence. The computer will probably be frequently in use during homework periods.
At intervals, the warnings of possible dangers on the Internet should be repeated. Around the dinner table, discuss the horror stories about computer-related crimes as they regularly appear in the media.
Continue to encourage participation in other activities, sports, and social events as opportunities arise. The teen may be ready to take on a part-time job to complement his allowance.
The computer and the Internet are to be used as tools to help achieve goals, whatever they may be: to complete a homework assignment, to communicate with friends and relatives, or to relax after a long day's work.
They become a problem when they become the sole focus of a person's interest to the exclusion of other people and the neglect of responsibilities , or when they are used as a means of escape from daily living and real-life situations.
Like electricity, nuclear power and other discoveries, computers can be used for good or harmful purposes. It is the parent's responsibility to establish and enforce rules for their use, as long as the children are in their home and under their care.