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Family Computer - Elementary School Children

Tips and Tools for Using the Computer with Your Elementary School Child

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Boy uses laptop in family kitchen

Enjoying some independence on the family computer

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About the Family Computer for Elementary School Children

Kids in elementary school are typically ready for more independence in their computer time. Once they are able to read and are comfortable using the mouse, they can navigate games, software and even the web with less supervision. While it can be tempting to tuck them away with a laptop, it is still important to keep an eye on what they're doing, both so you can help if they are stuck, but also to make sure they are staying on track. They'll also shift from games and activities that are primarily educational to those that are more entertainment based. Don't forget to continue to set limits on computer use. It's also likely that they are getting computer time at school and maybe at friends' houses, so it's a good idea to make sure you make your family rules and expectations clear.

Safety and Health

Once your elementary school child is able to navigate the computer independently, it's time for the big Internet safety talk. At this age focus on not sharing personal information (full name, address, phone number, school) without permission from a parent or teacher, not clicking on unknown links and telling a parent or teacher if they see something that makes them uncomfortable. Other good computing habits like taking frequent breaks and saving often (when age appropriate) should be introduced as well.

Games and Software

Kids at the elementary school level are very interested in software and gaming. You may already have a console (Wii, Playstation, XBox) and portable gaming system (DS/DSi, PSP, Leapster, Didj) in addition to the family computer. All of these systems should be counted in the "computer time" limits you set in your household. Look for software and games with an E (Everyone) rating from the ESRB. Games with an E10 (Everyone 10+) rating are typically too mature both in content and controls for very young children, but parents should make a case-by-case determination in this area. Games with a T or M (Mature) rating are not recommended as they are frequently too violent and/or sexual to be appropriate at this age. You can encourage social gaming (and eliminate at least a few family fights) by choosing games that have a multiplayer option.

Websites

There is no shortage of high-quality websites that are appropriate for elementary school kids. At this age, expect them to show a lot of interest in virtual worlds. These websites give kids freedom to explore and a certain amount of control over their environments. It's wise to try to introduce websites that have some educational value, but, unless they really need the help, skip sites that are merely flash-card-type drills. They're boring and won't engage kids in this age range.

Gadgets and Tools

Kids entering elementary school will vary in their ability to use the mouse, but will soon master that skill. Expect an increased interest in gadgets such as cameras, video cameras and handheld game systems. They may also start asking for their own computers.

Projects

This is a wonderful age for tackling projects on the computer. Younger kids may still need help, but you'll quickly see them match or surpass your skills.
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