Developmentally Appropriate Uses of Computers

Children under the age of three are, in most cases, not developmentally ready to begin using computers. While some software has been developed for children at very early ages, it is believed by many that the use of such software does not tap into the child's innate desire to experience things through kinesthet-ic or whole-body exploration. While use of computers by children at very early ages may not be harmful, the benefits of such use seem to be small. There are those, however, who believe that early computer use with a parent or other adult can be a bonding experience.

At about three to five years of age children are de-velopmentally ready to explore computers. At this young age, it is best for children to be given the op portunity to control their exploration of the computer and software. Early use should be limited in duration, and frustration should be avoided. Children at this stage enjoy interacting with active links and areas on the screen, discovering the effects of clicking different choices. Some research indicates that this kind of computer use gives children an increased sense of their impact on their environment, which leads to a greater sense of self-efficacy.

Children ages five to about seven are ready to begin using computers for more directed purposes, which may include communication, information gathering, and skills development. Appropriate software selection is important and children should have several to choose from. It is a good idea for children at this age to have some control over how they use the computer including some choice about software. Another appropriate use for children in this age range is for cooperative activities. Working with others on computers can reinforce language skills and help build cooperative work skills.

At ages seven and beyond, children are ready to continue using computers for a variety of purposes. In addition to skills development, children may use computers to create presentations that exercise or demonstrate their mastery of concepts or processes. As use of the computer as a communications tool expands, the computer can become increasingly important as a tool that the child can use to accomplish other tasks. Such use should expand as appropriate for the child. At these ages, however, some children begin to spend too much time using computers and other technologies, especially video games.

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