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Being a parent is something of a minefield. For every decision you make there are thousands of experts and articles telling you that you made the wrong choice, regardless of what it was; there is a ton of conflicting research that just doesn’t help you in the slightest.

Things like computer games, television and PCs and laptops are among the most debated issues in parentland. Do you allow your toddler to play around with a mouse and keyboard so that they are prepared for school? Or do you keep them well away from anything technical until they are studying ICT in the National Curriculum?

Currently the information on the web is contradictory to say the least. In July 2009, Baroness Susan Greenfield was quoted by the UK’s Daily Mail as saying that children who spend hour after hour on the computer may be damaging a vital part of their brains.  The article is nothing short of harrowing, with scientific quotes about damage to the prefrontal cortex. Of course, it isn’t a very objective piece.

I’m sure she has a point, after all I’m no scientist, but I honestly don’t think that most children live in online chatrooms either. Perhaps teens do, I know that most people go through a phase of sitting in online chatrooms at some point, but I’m not convinced that the consequences are quite that dire otherwise the last 10 years would have produced a world of social misfits.

Children and computers

After having done quite a bit of research and looked up plenty of websites that have been designed to help children become more au fait with computers, I have to say that I stand firmly in the other camp. I think that providing my children with valuable computing skills, well in advance of their schooling years, could give them an advantage later in life. After all, computers aren’t going away.

Now, this doesn’t mean I plan to sit them in front of yet another screen for hours on end. This is likely to have as negative an affect as sitting in front of the TV for long periods of time.  Instead I am going to allow them access to the computer and online games or activities for limited periods of time.

The web is just heaving with websites, software, resources and more that can help you teach your child simple mouse and keyboard skills, prepare them for school and even help them research their homework. There are sites that are exclusively for children to learn about social networking, to programme their own computer games or even code their own websites.

Surely using a computer in conjunction with their education is a brilliant way to bring ideas and concepts to life? I certainly think so. Imagine the impact that Google Earth can have on a geography lesson? Or how their writing skills could improve if they were encouraged to keep their own blog (there are even private and secure ones just for kids)? The possibilities are endless.

I could list a rather long and impressive trail of experts that think managed time with a computer can be hugely beneficial for children. I can also provide a list of experts that think the complete opposite. In this arena I think it may well be every parent for themselves.

Even the sticky topic of games is one that I plan to gently ignore here. Firstly because my children are too young for this to matter in terms of heavy, 3D games, but secondly, because the games that are available for my child to play are all about combining fun with teaching. I fail to see how these can be a bad thing unless that’s all my child is doing day in and day out. Like anything in this world, it’s all about moderation.

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