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It's hard to find a kid today without a keyboard attached—be it phone, tablet, laptop or desktop. The U.S. Bureau of Labor Statistics found that your kid spends roughly 8 hours per week tapping away on the computer, and writing a whopping 700 texts. However, resist the temptation to snatch the electronics and shoo him off—he can actually benefit from time with his keyboard, building valuable skills.
Typing games do a lot more than cut down on "LOL speak"—the mind-boggling trend of purposefully misspelling words and shortening phrases, usually via text message. Knowing how to type properly gives your kid valuable skills he'll use to get along in our wired world. Learning the right way to tap the keyboard will improve his long-term health, help battle disabilites and even improve his self-confidence later in life.
- Improve his posture. He's only going to spend more time in front of the computer as he gets older, so teach him good habits that stick. Chiropractor Tara Guthrie advises, "It is important to try to get your children to improve their posture at an early age. They will be less likely to develop the myriad of back problems that plague people in adulthood." Typing games come with posture guides to teach him how to adjust his screen, keyboard height and posture. Learning these skills early will prevent computer-related injury and help him stand up straighter.
- Help him get better grades. Chicken-pecking out a 20 page paper with your index fingers takes up a lot of time. Once his typing speed improves, he'll free up a lot of time for his other studies, and likely boost his grades. Learning to touch type—to tap letters without looking at the keyboard—will also help him communicate better. When he doesn't have to think about where his fingers go, his brain is free to concentrate on the task at hand.
- Tackle vision problems early. Katie Beaver, staff member at the Center for Assistive Technology at the University at Buffalo, says, "Students with low vision need to learn touch-typing early on in the writing process." For children with visual deficits or limited fields of vision, touch typing can be a God-send. Constantly refocusing between the bright screen and the dark keys slows down typing and computation skills, especially when your eyes already pose a problem. Even kids with healthy eyes can cut their likelihood of developing light sensitivity and headaches by learning to touch type.
- Better communication skills. Every parent believes it, but your kid may actually be smarter than the schoolwork he produces. A child with a disorder such as developmental coordination difficulty or dyspraxia—a disorder that affects motor skills—often struggles with handwriting. This complication loses him points for penmanship, and may embarrass him to the point where he refuses to do his work. Improving his skills with typing games may help him feel more comfortable, and finally live up to their potential.
- Help with spelling. If years of homemade flashcards taught us nothing else, it's that there's no better way to learn spelling than by rote memory. The best typing games combine typing with spelling to make memorization fun. Look for typing games that use real words as typing guides. Children with significant spelling difficulty will benefit from programs that say the word out loud. Shelly Shaywitz, author of Overcoming Dyslexia, recommends encouraging your child to "say the word as he writes it also helps reinforce its pronunciation".
- Build confidence. It might sound like a lot to ask from a game, but a bit of typing proficiency goes a long way. It can impart the gift of independence or give new-found communication skills. Even better posture gives them a different outlook on life. Dr. Guthrie says that "People who have had good posture from the teenage years experience greater confidence and charisma than those with poor posture."
- Start Early. If he's old enough to beg for computer time, he's old enough to tackle a few typing games. Once they reach a first grade reading level, they've got the skills to tackle an exercise or two a day. Jill Jenkinson, author of Building Blocks for Learning: Occupational Therapy Approaches, says "children need to be able to type as fast or faster than their handwriting speed before a keyboard is an effective means of regularly recording their work." Start building those skills early before Facebook and Twitter start eating in to his typing game time.
Typing games are an essential tool to help shape your child's future. With that in mind, do a little research before you plop him down in front of the keyboard. Don't just pick the first typing game that pops up on a Google search. Take the time to find a university or expert-recommended game. A quality typing game will build skill's and practices that he'll take with him for the rest of his life. That's a lot of return for a few minutes of extra typing every day.