Product sample provided. This is a guest post by Natasha Hendrix, Customer Support Supervisor at Crucial.
Both at home and at school, it’s clear kids and adults are embracing the role electronic devices can play in education, social and physical development starting at an early age in childhood. With technology now such an integral part of children’s lives – especially as kids are home amid COVID-19 school closures – parents have an even greater responsibility to ensure kids understand and use good digital habits. Here’s a quick refresher lesson for parents as they help their kids navigate the delicate balance between online schooling resources and digital entertainment with five simple tips to boost computer literacy in kids.
Get a used, or less expensive computer
Most children master smartphones and iPads first. Once they’re used to limited screen time, parents might determine they’re ready for an upgrade. Before you rush out and buy the most state-of-the-art new desktop computer or laptop, think about those carpet stains, and remember kids can be clumsy with their belongings.
Buying a used, refurbished or less expensive computer or laptop, or better yet, giving kids your hand-me-down, provides substantial cost savings. You can also breathe a little easier after drops or lemonade spills.
Start with the basics
Turning on and restarting a smartphone is straightforward for most children but powering up a computer (especially a desktop) and turning it off properly may not come as naturally. Make sure to set your kids up for success by going through and showing them the basic steps for turning and logging on to their computer and monitor. It’s also vital for them to establish a good habit of saving their work often in case the computer unexpectedly freezes or crashes.
You should also equip children with a mouse. While kids know how to search the web and use apps on a phone with the flick of their thumb, they may not recognize the ways a mouse can increase efficiency or which buttons to click. And while they’re scrolling, it’s also good to remind them about McGruff’s top ten internet safety tips; things like never visit websites that aren’t parent approved, and never download or install any computer games or programs that mom and dad don’t know about.
Incorporate coding games
Gone are the days when coding seemed too difficult for the average computer user to learn, let alone a child. Research now shows it’s never too early to start building software. A recent survey of nearly 40,000 developers showed 21 percent of respondents started coding between the ages of 11 to 15, while almost 5 percent took up the hobby before they turned 10. Incorporating fun and interactive coding games early on can help kids learn the basic structure of a computer program without getting bogged down by the technical aspects of programming language. And who knows where an early interest and adeptness in coding or programming could take them in the future.
Extend their computer’s life with a solid state drive
If your child’s used computer is starting to show some wear and tear, along with their patience as they wait for programs and games to load, consider extending its life with a solid state drive, or SSD. It takes a screwdriver and fewer than five minutes to install and provides good performance increase bang for your buck. Plus, upgrading your old hard drive to an SSD provides a substantial cost savings over buying a new computer, so you won’t have to shell out hundreds or even thousands of dollars for an upgrade.
Enforce screen time limits
OK, maybe limiting your kid’s screen time isn’t technically boosting their computer literacy. However, capping the amount of time they spend at the computer and on video games — and hopefully encouraging them to run around outside — encourages a healthy balance that will serve them well now and throughout their lives. Just because your child is home from school and wants to spend hours staring at a screen, doesn’t mean they should.
The American Heart Association’s latest findings show kids and teens ages 8 to 18 spend an average of more than seven hours a day looking at screens. AHA recommends limiting that screen time to two hours per day. For younger children, age 2 to 5, the recommendation drops to a single hour each day.
Physical activity, and a lack of it, is not the only concern. As children spend more time tethered to screens, medical providers also worry about the harmful impacts to their visual development. A recent study found school-aged children who spend long hours reading or on screens with use of computers and video games, have heightened their risk of myopia. Kids can also be affected by digital eye strain like adults and can experience dry eye, headaches, and blurry vision.
Teaching your kids how to live with digital limits, and eventually how to set their own, will help them create and practice healthy digital boundaries into adulthood as well.
While kids today are surrounded by technology options, parents still have a responsibility to make sure they’re setting their children up for safety and success. This extra time being spent at home is the perfect reason to re-strategize the family’s relationship with technology because fostering healthy computer use from the start will help equip them with the fundamentals they’ll need to maintain good habits for life.