Computer Play and the Internet (page 2)

By — Pearson Allyn Bacon Prentice Hall
Updated on Jul 20, 2010


Developmentally appropriate soft-ware has the following features:

  • Contains simple and spoken directions.
  • Allows independent exploration and discovery.
  • Is open ended and allows children to maintain control.
  • Provides many opportunities for problem solving.
  • Allows children to impact the program through a variety of responses.
  • Emphasizes the process of discovery.
  • Teaches cause-and-effect relationships.

In addition, the National Association for the Education of Young Children (NAEYC) (1996) Position Statement on Technology and Young Children recommends that violent themes be avoided and that content reflect diverse cultures, ages, abilities, and family styles.

Parents, teachers, and other adults must assume responsibility for guiding children in their use of computers. Guidelines are available from a number of sources, including the American Library Association, the American Academy of Pediatrics, the ERIC Clearinghouses on Early Childhood, Elementary and Secondary Education (2000), and the National Association for the Education of Young Children (2001).

Guidelines for adults include the following:

  • Stay involved in children’s computer activities including Websites, chat rooms, and computer games.
  • Complement computer time with other developmentally appropriate activities, including physical activity.
  • Place computers in areas that adults frequent regularly.
  • Monitor and discuss the content of Websites with children and help them understand the limits imposed.
  • Use filtering hardware to help ensure that objectionable material is not viewed by children.
  • Seek help in selecting appropriate content for children.
  • Pay attention to the food that children eat during computer use. Replace junk food with nutritious snacks.
  • Pay attention to the emotions of children engaged in computer use. Look for signs of fatigue, eyestrain, and so on.
  • Place limits on the amount of time that children use computers.

The Internet

The guidelines for use of computers and software just noted apply generally to the selection and use of the Internet. Fortunately, research on use patterns is expanding and guidelines are becoming more reliable. The Internet itself is the best, quickest source of research about the Internet with unlimited resources available to assist people of all ages in securing information on virtually any topic.

There are potential risks for children going online, including exposure to sex and violence, pornographic peddlers, commercialism, and excessive isolation. Yet the Internet can be a useful tool in developing social, cognitive, and literacy skills (NAEYC, 1998b), in increasing family and public involvement in the schools, and in meeting the educational needs of diverse groups of students (National School Boards Foundation, 2002).

A national survey of 1,735 households nationwide (National School Boards Foundation, 2002) revealed a mostly positive picture of Internet usage by children ages 9 to 17. In about half of the households, one or more children were online, with the percentage growing to three of four teenagers. Parents and children told the researchers,

  • Families buy computers for education.
  • The Internet does not disrupt healthy activities.
  • The Internet does not isolate children.
  • Girls and boys use the Internet equally but in different ways.
  • Parents trust their children’s use of the Internet.
  • Most view the Internet as a valuable new tool.

Bear in mind that these conclusions reflect responses from households to a survey and do not include direct observations of children’s Internet usage. All adults involved in children’s education, especially parents and teachers, should focus on positive, constructive ways to use the Internet while remaining vigilant to possible misuse:

  • Know what children are watching.
  • Keep computers in open spaces where adults will be present on a regular basis.
  • Discuss Internet content with children and help them develop educational projects that include Internet use.
  • Balance Internet use with a range of activities that involve books, hands-on projects, and projects that require physical activity.
  • Help children sort out fact from fiction in what they see on the Internet.
  • Learn Internet skills so you can assist beginners and participate in some of their projects.•
  • Install filtering hardware to shield children from objectionable content.
  • Help children learn to shield their identity when using the Internet.
  • Know about the “friends” your children are communicating with on the Internet.
  • Develop plans for interaction between schools and homes on Internet usage. Open up communication via Internet as well as Page Number:85
    through direct person-to-person contacts between parents and teachers.
  • Involve children in setting policies for using the Internet at home and school.
  • Help develop training classes for unskilled and minimally skilled parents and teachers.
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