Teaching your little ones to respect the tech
Chances are, teaching your child to use a laptop responsibly and independently is something your parents probably didn’t have to do. And, if they did, you probably weren’t a toddler at the time. Things have changed. According to Common Sense Media, half (53 percent) of all 2- to 4-year-olds have used a computer. If you’re a parent or guardian thinking about introducing your child to tech, here are a few tips to help you get started:
- Set firm ground rules. Depending on the age of your child, you may need to explain that the laptop is not a toy. From there, you should establish basic rules about when and how your child will have access to the device. For example, you might consider designating a specific area of your home as a dedicated work space (e.g., the desk in the family room, or the table in the kitchen). Decide too, if you’d like there to be an adult in the room or nearby whenever your child uses the laptop. Also, you may want to set guidelines about how long your child can use the computer, and what they can and cannot do online.
- Explain proper laptop care. This one’s tricky. We’ve all eaten at our desks or checked email with a coffee in hand, but it’s a good idea to tell your children to keep food and drink away from the laptop at all times. Also, explain that the mouse, keyboard, and other accessories are sensitive devices and should be handled gently. Explain how dropping the laptop or spilling food and drinks on the keyboard can permanently damage the computer.
- Practice using the trackpad or mouse. Using a trackpad typically requires fine motor skills and coordination. If your child is younger, you may want to purchase a mouse device. If you do, be sure to choose one that fits comfortably in your child’s hand. If they’re physically unable to hold or handle a mouse, they’ll have difficulty navigating through menus and performing basic tasks. Whether you choose to use a trackpad or a mouse, remember that you can always adjust the speed and sensitivity of the device from your laptop control panel.
- Choose age-appropriate applications. Young children who are still developing their fine motor skills may not be able to use applications that require them to click on very small items. Likewise, they may have trouble scrolling. If you look at the DreamBox interface, you’ll see that the learning environment features large, colorful graphics that are easy to click.
- Bookmark frequently visited URLs: Bookmarks are a great way to save and organize specific websites and applications so your child can easily revisit them again and again. Sit with your child and bookmark the URLs you think they’ll use most frequently. When you’re done, be sure to show them where to find the bookmarks and which links to click on. It’s easy for kids to identify applications by their icons, so point out where they appear in the URL.
- Teach them how to launch applications, and log in. For very young students you may have to get them set up, but you should be able to let them learn independently without much assistance. You may want to keep a numbered set of login instructions nearby, until your child becomes comfortable with the process.