Just how much digital time can I safely allow my 6-year-old? What is the right age for my child to get her first computer?
These are questions that parents all around the country are asking. With TVs, cellphones, tablets, computers, and tons of digital media surrounding us, parents typically find themselves addicted to some extent to their gadgets. And, while you do want your child also to be tech-savvy, the question remains – At what age is it safe?
Let’s Ask the Experts!
The American Academy of Pediatrics held a conference in October 2016 and came up with a set of guidelines for parents for the year 2017. Their recommendation? As long as digital time is productive and does not take away from other normal, healthy activities essential for the growth of your child, you can safely allow up to 2 to 3 hours each day to a 6-year-old.
Dr. Yolanda Reid Chassiakos is the assistant professor at UCLA and main author of the “Children and Adolescents and Digital Media Technical Report.” She says, “The environment of media has changed today. Many aspects of digital media are positive: it can be interactive; it facilitates communication; it allows people to create. Kids often view class lecture notes and do homework through a screen.”
At the same time, she warns of the dangers of exposure to digital media and that parents need to protect kids from “cyberbullying, engaging in sexting, and being accessible to advertisements and online predators.”
You Can Buy Your Child Her First Computer at Age 6
Now that you’re confident about allowing digital time, the next question arises – What do I need to know about buying my child’s first computer? Here are a few important pointers to keep in mind when opting for the right gadget.
Invest in a Family Computer
When you buy your child her first computer, install it in the family room where you can monitor all digital activities. Children can often unknowingly open inappropriate videos and YouTube clips when watching cartoons. So, parents need to keep a close watch on the websites they surf and games they play.
Here’s another idea. You could opt to buy a laptop instead and lock it away when you’re not around to supervise your child. To economize on the costs, consider getting refurbished laptops that you can buy for under $100.
Refurbished Devices Are a Better Choice for a Child
With small kids, you always need to be prepared for the possibility of spills, knocks, and accidents that can damage the internal components of expensive, new gadgets.
Conduct a little research and you can find a barely used or almost new laptop from the original manufacturer’s website or a certified refurbishing store. Rest assured that the sellers conduct strict quality control tests and examine each device carefully for operational issues. Your child can use the laptop for a long while as her first computer and you won’t need to worry about a major loss in case it does get damaged.
Protect Your Child from Cyber Threats and Predators
When looking for the right first computer for your child, check for the operating system it has. The newest of operating systems come with in-built parental controls that are highly sophisticated and can protect your child from cyber criminals. Verify that the laptop has all the security measures that can deter phishing attacks and cyber predators.
Here’s a simple solution. Download child-friendly programs and applications and save them in a separate folder. When your child can find all the games she wants in one specific folder, she won’t feel the need to look around. Finding games that don’t need to have internet access is also a great option. And, as long as you’re restricting computer time, your child should be fine.
Create a Separate Account for Your Child
Should you look for a computer with Windows 10 as the operating system, you’ll find that it allows you to set up a separate account for each user in the family. This factor can be especially helpful if you would prefer to let your child work on an existing device in the house.
Set up an account on account.microsoft.com/family. The website lets you add age and time restrictions to the account. Once you have this application, it won’t allow the child to open any other websites. Further, each week, it sends you an email informing you of the websites your child visited and the time she spent exploring each. You’ll also receive an account of the time she spent each day on the computer.
Additional Useful Accessories
Search the internet and you can come across several authoritative websites directing you on the applications you can make available to your child that are educational. In addition to kindergarten spelling, identifying letters and words, and basic math, you can also teach your child to write code. Learning simple shortcuts for using a computer and navigating keys to perform operations teaches kids how to use a computer in addition to spatial skills. You’ll also challenge your child’s creativity.
As a Parent, You’re the Best Judge
Getting advice from the experts on what is and isn’t best for your child is a great idea. But, ultimately, when it comes to your child, you’re the best judge. Trust your instincts when working out the right time to introduce her to the world of technology. When allocating digital time, ensure that she also spends enough time outdoors and is actively involved in physical activities. It is up to you to create the perfect balance between a digital education and the other essentials for her to grow up as a well-rounded individual.