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Computers and Kids

Dear Friend,

Help!

I have a bit of a conumdrum and I’m not finding much helpful material about it on the web or from folks I talk to, so I thought that I would bounce it off of you and see what you thought.

You see, my kids love computers. I mean, they really love computers. If we’d let them they’d do nothing else but sit on ‘puters all day.

Just when I think that these computers are just a substitute for last generation’s TV addiction, I listen in on what they are up to. And I am impressed.

My oldest is recruiting and organizing others into groups to achieve a task. My other kids are creating virtual worlds and taking care of virtual pets. The creative activities they engage in are really terrific. Mostly.

My kids are very physically active and would rather run around that be involved in sedentary activities, so I’m not worried about them becoming overweight “couch potatoes.” So what, exactly, am I worried about?

I think that the problem is that my wife and I do not know how much is too much. And when we look for guidance there seems to be two camps – or one, really.

The camp of the academic purists, as I call them, basically think that computers are just aggrandized televisions, and that we’d all be better off without them. I notice, however, a distinct generational slant in these folks, with most being too old to have experienced computers in any but an adult professional environment.

The other camp is no camp at all. It is made up of those parents who simply put some random restriction on computer time and content usage, or simply put no restriction at all.

The first camp has reams of data to support their position. All of it written by old dudes from the pre-computer generation.

The second camp has no documentary support at all.

My instinct is to observe each of my children, see how they react to their interaction with technology, and then to meter their exposure based on that reaction. I also always want to see my kids involved in a variety of activities that involve physical activity, different types of challenges and stimuli, and basically incorporate variety in their daily life.

But then there are four of them and it can be tough to work all day and do all the other things that we adults need to do every day and at the same time be closely monitor how many minutes/hours each child has spent each day in each activity. And the computer monitoring software that I have tried just doesn’t hold up well – it’s too rigid or just hasn’t worked well.

In fact, just thinking about manually keeping track of all that they do everyday makes me dizzy. Sometimes watching them run around in circles makes me dizzy too!

I’m sure I will hear from you the same kinds of things that I have read. But I am asking you for your thoughts in the hope that some of your responses will help me and my wife to do what is best by my children.

And maybe you’ll be helping other readers out there with the same issue.

Thanks so much for your thoughts! I look forward to reading them!

All the best,

Hugh

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