Early Connections: Technology in Early Childhood Education
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Common Questions

When should children start using the computer?

Young children have important tasks to accomplish to provide a solid base for future learning. For children under the age of three, computers do not provide the experiences with three-dimensional objects and learning in the real world that they need. Young children have difficulty fully understanding who controls the computer and who is causing the actions on the screen. For children under three, computer use is not recommended.
Beginning around three years of age children may be introduced to computers, with supervision and guidance from adults or older siblings. Pay careful attention to the software being used, and do not replace needed learning activities with computer time.

For more information, see Children's Development

Will using a computer give young children a head start?

Young children must have experiences in the real world with objects they can manipulate, and interactions with other children and adults. Computers do not provide these rich experiences and will not give them a "head start." Children may be introduced to computers when they are developmentally ready, but will not be "missing out" if they do not have access to computers during their early years.

For more information, see Children's Development

I've heard that using computers is bad for children. Is this true?

Computers are not necessarily good or bad. As critics and observers such as Jane Healy have noted, without the necessary thought or planning the use of computers in education does not automatically provide increased learning or other benefits, and can create problems. Adults need to consider the developmental stage of the child and the purpose of computer use in the particular situation. If they decide it will add to the educational setting, they must think through and plan for the many aspects of introducing technology, and provide guidance and support if children use computers.

For more information, see Technology and Learning

What kind of computer should I buy to use with children?

There is no one right answer on what type of computer to buy, or even if or when to buy a computer. Consider the educational purpose of the computer, and what the children will be using it for. Also think about the additional support needed (financial, training, and maintenance), and what the time children spend using the computer will replace.

For more information see Hardware

What software should I buy?

Think first of all about the needs of the child, and what you want the software to provide or build on. Computer software can be used to support learning in specific ways, depending on the needs of the child and the learning that is planned. There are many sources of good information about software for children, including criteria for selection and reviews of software.

For more information see Software Selection

Are there potential problems for children with computers?

Flashing images and constantly moving graphics on television and computer screens make it harder for children to pay attention to tasks and activities that require sustained attention. Parents may want to set family guidelines for "screen time," including time on computers, watching TVs and videos, and playing video games. A good recommendation is one hour for preschoolers and two hours for elementary school children per day for all screen time combined.

Electronics should not be allowed to substitute for activities such as homework, conversation, chores, hands-on games and hobbies, or just relaxing and being together. Unless computers are used for homework, have them off limits until school work is completed.

For more information, see Children's Development and Technology and Learning

How can children be safe while they're using a computer?

Children need furniture and equipment that is correctly sized and suited to them, just as adults do, to safeguard their physical health. They should be encouraged to move around while using a computer, and not start fixedly at the screen. Computers should be in common areas where they are visible, with adults nearby to provide guidance and support.

Adults should be involved during any use of the Internet, and children should be taught to not give out personal information.

For more information see Health & Safety

Children's Development | Technology Connections | Common Questions


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