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Computer Use for the Very Young


The first thing my 3 year old said when he woke up this morning was, "can I get on the computer?" He wasn't interested in pancakes or trains or puppy dog tails but an electronic contraption with a plug to the outside world. Granted, I just recently signed him up for a trial period an educational website designed for preschoolers, but this level of enthusiasm was a bit disturbing. Having two little boys in the house, I have mentally prepared myself for the day when I'll have a couple of teenagers upstairs glued to a gaming system. But I never thought it would start so soon. Perhaps it is a result of my gender, but I've never quite understood how guys can spend so many hours of their lives on computer games. Okay, so maybe it was kind of fun watching my brother do Mike Tyson's Punch Out on the old Nintendo, but other than that, this phenomenon has escaped me. It just seems like a lot of wasted time.My son is remarkably computer savvy. He can drag and drop better than my mother can and navigates his bookmarks with surprising ease. And sure, I have been strict about setting time limits and only allowing him to do educational programs, but I still wonder if this is a good thing. Yes, he's gaining some technical skills and practicing his letters and numbers, but I can easily see how this could become a crutch. There aren't too many activities my son is content to do on his own, but his computer is one of them. And as a mom trying to juggle creative ambitions, it sure would be easy to let him be on there for a little more time as I finish up some projects, right? But today was a beautiful day. So, I turned off the computer and took the kids to the park. So, yeah, the Play Station days will catch up to us someday, but for now I have two little kids to cherish and play with: unplugged.


Ronda Miller 9 years, 10 months ago

It is obviously that you are a caring and concerned mom who is monitoring what your boys are doing not only today, but tomorrow. I don't think you will need to worry.

Yeah, you will have some heated arguments and some sleepless nights, but remember the dye is cast by the age of five and you are laying down the groundwork for the rest of their lives now.

I wish my two children were those ages again - it goes so quickly.

Thanks for a caring post - the joys of motherhood!

Sandy Beverly 9 years, 10 months ago

I struggle with this, too. We limit our 5 y.o. to 1 hour of screen time a day, usually PBS shows. He lives for that time, probably b/c it's limited. He resists when I encourage him to do other things before he watches his shows, and this is frustrating when it's a beautiful morning to be outside, for example. At the same time, I rely on the time he's watching TV to get chores done. (I"m a stay-at-home mom to two with very limited child care.) Computer games don't work as well--for me--b/c he's inexperienced and so calls me for help often.

In some ways, I wish we were a no-screen-time family. But it's very complex. I want my kids to fit in, and what will it be like when they're not nearly as good at computer games as their friends b/c they're so inexperienced? And I admit that I love the sound of laughter when Simon hoots out loud at something he sees on Zoboomafu. He's having fun!

I am glad that we've avoided non-PBS tv with all the commercials. I truly believe he has wanted fewer toys, etc b/c he hasn't been exposed to much advertising.

These are tough issues, but I believe a little screen time is not harmful (perhaps helpful), and if we parents are getting the big things right--love, a secure environment, appropriate discipline, etc--our kids are likely to thrive.

But, yes, three cheers for the outdoor time!!

Chris Golledge 9 years, 10 months ago

Sorry for the OCD in me, but "the dye is cast" should be "the die is cast". One die, two dice. Casting/throwing something like ink brings an entirely different meaning to mind.

I applaud your efforts. How much virtual reality versus reality itself our kids get should be something that more parents concern themselves with. It's a different world; we don't have much in the way of precedents to know what will work best. Certainly, there are a lot of virtual realities that stimulate thought and problem solving; there are also a lot that don't and/or present a virtual world that isn't much like the real thing and teach things which won't work when applied to real life.

My own son has gotten quite enthusiastic about World of Warcraft. The other day he was complaining about one of the other players being a 'ninja'. (Someone who takes an unfair share of the treasure.) It took me a few minutes, but I pointed out that what the other had gained was some make-believe items in a make-believe world and what he had lost was the respect of his peers. That seemed to ground my son, but I had to wonder what was being learned at the other end.

I think we have to accept that virtual realities are going to be a part of life and learn to work with them as we have other technologies before them. Think how the telephone and email changed the way people interact.

antney 9 years, 10 months ago

Cool Blog. I was just marveling today at how my 4 year old daughter is able to navigate through the PBS Sesame Street Website using the mouse pad on my laptop and clicking with her thumb (exactly how I do it) while my mom struggles through a photo album or the concept of double clicking.

trinity 9 years, 10 months ago

i share your ocd, cg-was going to comment the same.

reading these posts makes me ever so glad my kids are grown. i didn't have to contend with much more than super mario brothers-and that ran its course in a short time. i'm proud of my daughters for not having to struggle with whether or not to allow "screen time" for computer or tv; they go with the flow, love&nourish their kidlet's minds, let 'em have the screen sometimes but also turn 'em out for imaginative, unstructured play oftentimes. and it just ain't nothin' but a thang, no magic formula or parenting courses to "teach" them these things. go figure.

Jerry Elliott 9 years, 10 months ago

marlo--wish i could have joined you and the boys in the park. what a wonderful day it was--and i wasted it in the office. jerry

zadocvamp 9 years, 10 months ago

Hehe, Marlo! You surprised me with your statement, "Perhaps it is a result of my gender, but I've never quite understood how guys can spend so many hours of their lives on computer games." Now I may be the nerdiest female you know, but I have, in fact, spent 13 hours straight in one day playing Resident Evil 4, and don't let me even start about how hooked I get on Sims games!!! But, on the bright side, I have managed to get my Masters degree in my spare time, hehe :)

Signed, Your Geeked Out Sister-In-Law

zadocvamp 9 years, 10 months ago

One more thing though, to clarify, I do agree with your actions however. It is wonderful that you were able to get out with the kids. Now, if I could manage to put the game controller down (or turn off the movie or tv show) for just a couple hours at least, and get meh lazy booty outside, I could be in better shape :)

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