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View Full Version : What age is best to start kids on computers?



darth_indy
May 12th, 2008, 09:47 PM
I have a six-year-old brother, and I was wondering at what age everyone thinks is a good age for a kid to start on computers. His only experience so far is when I set him up on the Fischer Price site to play a Flash game. He knows how to use the mouse, and that's basically it. He plays X-Box (Lego Star Wars, most of the time, and can almost beat me in Burnout). He's still learning how to read and write, and he's homeschooled. My parents aren't very tech savvy, and I'm in college; combine that with a full-time job, and I don't have much time to teach anything.

My main question is: when do you start teaching kids how to use a computer? I know that kids are a lot smarter than we give them credit for, and if I was able to give my brother full access to a computer he'd probably teach me a thing or to now. They'd grasp the basics such as the mouse, keyboard, CDs, etc. They grow up with it around them, and seeing others use computers is about as common as breathing. I can tell my brother is a budding geek - he's more obsessed with Star Wars than I am, and it surprises me that he knows terms like hard drive, or DVD (Though, when he was younger, he called it a CDD ;) ). He can load the Xbox himself, and has helped my mom troubleshoot the computer more than once (He turned on the monitor for her). By teaching, I mean more specific programs, or even incorporating computers into his curriculum (as I said, he's homeschooled, so it'd be easy).

What I'd like to do is get an old laptop I have laying around, install Edubuntu, and begin with letting him teach himself what he can and ask questions he needs, and go from there. I wouldn't just say, "You're on your own, kid," and leave him to get frustrated. IMHO, it's just as important to teach typing at this early an age as it is to teach them writing - even more so, if trends continue the way they do. Things like that. While I wonít have him take BASIC lessons along with English, I think itís very important today to get kids acclimated to technology as early as possible.

So... comments? Criticizm? Other opinions? I'd really like to hear what others have to say.

imronak
May 12th, 2008, 09:51 PM
Try starting with teaching him Compiles and stuff.

You should make him able to Compile his own kernel when he is 10. ;)

On a serious note, I would not want a large amount of exposure in an early age. After all, he might spend his all life (in future) staring at the screen ( #-o Computer Engineers ).

bite
May 12th, 2008, 09:54 PM
I have a six-year-old brother, and I was wondering at what age everyone thinks is a good age for a kid to start on computers. His only experience so far is when I set him up on the Fischer Price site to play a Flash game. He knows how to use the mouse, and that's basically it. He plays X-Box (Lego Star Wars, most of the time, and can almost beat me in Burnout). He's still learning how to read and write, and he's homeschooled. My parents aren't very tech savvy, and I'm in college; combine that with a full-time job, and I don't have much time to teach anything.

My main question is: when do you start teaching kids how to use a computer?


In my opinion: never. Or to be more precise: just don't hide the existence of computers, and answer her/his spontaneous questions with sincerity (just as for sex) :)



I know that kids are a lot smarter than we give them credit for, and if I was able to give my brother full access to a computer he'd probably teach me a thing or to now. They'd grasp the basics such as the mouse, keyboard, CDs, etc. They grow up with it around them, and seeing others use computers is about as common as breathing. I can tell my brother is a budding geek - he's more obsessed with Star Wars than I am, and it surprises me that he knows terms like hard drive, or DVD (Though, when he was younger, he called it a CDD ;) ). He can load the Xbox himself, and has helped my mom troubleshoot the computer more than once (He turned on the monitor for her). By teaching, I mean more specific programs, or even incorporating computers into his curriculum (as I said, he's homeschooled, so it'd be easy).

What I'd like to do is get an old laptop I have laying around, install Edubuntu, and begin with letting him teach himself what he can and ask questions he needs, and go from there. I wouldn't just say, "You're on your own, kid," and leave him to get frustrated. IMHO, it's just as important to teach typing at this early an age as it is to teach them writing - even more so, if trends continue the way they do. Things like that. While I wonít have him take BASIC lessons along with English, I think itís very important today to get kids acclimated to technology as early as possible.

So... comments? Criticizm? Other opinions? I'd really like to hear what others have to say.

LaRoza
May 12th, 2008, 09:56 PM
Kids shouldn't be on computers for anything other than short periods of time.

cardinals_fan
May 12th, 2008, 10:07 PM
Don't push too hard too early, but consider giving equal command line / GUI exposure at first.

schtufbox
May 12th, 2008, 10:25 PM
Don't push too hard too early, but consider giving equal command line / GUI exposure at first.
I agree, never push, and as was said above, never for too long. All three of my kids like to use the PC, The eldest for homework (pretty much a neccesity these days) the middle one likes playing Counterstrike (he's better than me now) and occasionally he does some homework on it (not so much at his age as he's younger)
I tend to let them have 30 mins to an hour after dinner, and after they have done their homework to play a game. Sometimes they just play on their PS2 though.

The youngest, Niko, he's only 2, but already an expert at using a mouse..he likes to play 'click' (aka Mines in gnome :p) I only let him have a short go, 5 minutes here and there when he's been good. He's also mastered leaving me random messages when I lock my PC. These messages consist of 'dfgdkruherrgljnlweufhweiufhergiue' and other random letters, but he knows exactly where to click to leave the message. The piccy below is Niko playing Mines :D

ghindo
May 12th, 2008, 11:31 PM
Children should be exposed to computers in the womb.

Anything later is just putting them at a disadvantage.

bobblehat
May 12th, 2008, 11:41 PM
My kids started when they were about 1 year old. I agree it's important not to push them. Just let them play (supervised - obviously).

I mostly run Ubuntu but have a dual boot to Windows on one machine. Offered free choice my kids always choose Linux. I asked my oldest (now 7) why and the reply was "I don't know - I just do".

Good enough for me.

darth_indy
May 13th, 2008, 01:19 AM
Thanks for all the input so far. It's really helping me figure this out. Of course, I don't have final say on my brother's education, or anything like that, but being the techie in the family, I always end up giving lessons so I knew sooner or later this would be my field.

I don't want to push either. But do you think it'd be a good idea at his age to have him play games like the Edubuntu game that teaches touch-typing? (I think it's called TuxType, but I can't remember).

As for time limits, he never has spent more than 1/2 hour on the computer at one time, usually more like 15 minutes, and he's allowed only 1/2 hour of Xbox every so often (1 or 2 times a week)

When it comes to CLI/GUI, I would think that it would be best to stick to GUI for a while, if only to save your sanity so he doesn't randomly bang on the keyboard and come out with "rm -rf /" I know "sudo" is there to protect from big mistakes like that, but there's still havoc that can be wreaked without admin access. But I do agree that it would be good to get him used to CLI at some point, if only so it doesn't seem so scary.

SuperSon!c
May 13th, 2008, 01:22 AM
let the kid be a kid for a while. pc's aren't going anywhere. it's so sad to see so many kids on a pc HOURS a day when they should be outside playing with their friends.

Xerp
May 13th, 2008, 01:28 AM
I started when I was 8, but programming was a lot easier back then - even with a 32k RAM pack! Computing is an essential part of everyday life now. Starting early gives them a boost.

TetonsGulf
May 13th, 2008, 01:44 AM
Let 'em fool around a bit, then if and when he takes interest in the nuts and bolts, help 'em out. There is no right or wrong age to start, but it's easy to see kids pick this stuff up quick. Case in point, here's an 11 year old who wants to make his own Ubuntu Office distro.

http://ubuntuforums.org/showthread.php?t=786949

Good luck to you.

fissionmailed
May 13th, 2008, 02:01 AM
I'd say don't encourage or discourage it. Having been a kid who grew up with computers, I developed my own interest in them.

Ocxic
May 13th, 2008, 02:04 AM
i started with computer when I was about 8-10, and a soon as i found out there was actually stuff inside the computer box I was hooked, from that point on I proceeded to crash my computer and attempt to fix it many a times, failing 90% of the time. I say give him a computer he can play with without fear. and let him learn on his own offering advise when needed.

forrestcupp
May 13th, 2008, 03:08 AM
My boy was still 1 when he started playing Playhouse Disney games. He's 4 now and has his own 2nd hand computer in his bedroom. GCompris and Childsplay are excellent learning games for young kids.

bite
May 13th, 2008, 08:27 AM
let the kid be a kid for a while. pc's aren't going anywhere. it's so sad to see so many kids on a pc HOURS a day when they should be outside playing with their friends.

Agree.

duckgoesoink
May 13th, 2008, 10:10 AM
Just let him play. Kids seem to figure technology out intuitively - if it's possible for him to have his own machine then he would have a free learning environment. Answer questions he has, and maybe introduce him to different things you can do on the computer - if he shows an interest in particular things, you can teach him in more detail.

As he progresses through his education you and your parents could integrate computer technology. Some simple examples:

when he starts writing little stories, he could do drafts in an exercise book and publish nice versions using a word processor.
he could learn to use the dictionary on the computer as well as a physical one
he could do some artwork in Inkscape or a painting program (either as illustrations for his other school work or as part of his art curriculum)
he could learn to use the internet for research (supplementing old fashioned research from books)
he could make slideshow presentations of what he's learnt at the end of a topic study
he could write emails to a "penpal" across the world


As for typing being more important than writing - hand writing should come first (in most cases) as obviously it develops familiarity with letter forms. Then typing becomes another method of writing once basics are learnt. (Instant messaging with a competant partner helps as much as fun typing games do if he has to type full words each time.)

Using the computer to help reinforce his reading and writing lessons would be useful - there is a great website at starfall.com (http://www.starfall.com) which has flash-based interactive reading lessons and activities, as well as worksheets to print for offline use.

bobblehat
May 13th, 2008, 10:30 AM
save your sanity so he doesn't randomly bang on the keyboard and come out with "rm -rf /" I know "sudo" is there to protect from big mistakes like that

From what I remember, hammering the keyboard randomly was a big attraction for my kids :) I install another copy of the O/S - dual boot for them to play in, then it doesn't matter too much.


it's so sad to see so many kids on a pc HOURS a day when they should be outside playing with their friends.

Agree totally - it needs balance. I try to encourage some of both with mine. At the end of the day though they're people and make choices and all you can provide is help and guidance.

Arkenzor
May 13th, 2008, 01:02 PM
At the end of the day though they're people and make choices and all you can provide is help and guidance.

Seems parental authority really has become an old-fashioned idea :D.
Not that I have any real opinion about whether it's a good or bad thing...

Back on topic, I'd say: don't push them (probably, seeing you use a computer should be enough to get them at least mildly interested), but be ready to limit them.
A small amount of early learning should be a very good thing, as children seem to get used to technology on a much more intuitive level than adults do. But beyond that, a computer is also a very effective way of running away from reality and missing out on the things that truly matter in a kid's life and growth.

I don't think I'd be comfortable with giving my kids their own computer until their middle/late teens. But I guess this would be going too far against the times

barbedsaber
May 13th, 2008, 01:15 PM
My opinion, (having not read anyone elses)

start as early as possible, but only for a short amount of time in one session. then again, I am probobly not a good pesrson to take advice from.

grossaffe
May 13th, 2008, 01:15 PM
you don't really need to teach kids about computers, you just need to let them explore computers. they'll pick things up as they go. just don't give them administrative privlidges. ;)

chewearn
May 13th, 2008, 01:26 PM
As soon as you hear him say "Hello world!", you know it's time. :mrgreen:

Seriously (am I serious?), kids will pound on anything that will make a beep sound. I let my nephew play with my phone, he kept pressing the keys because it made a tone.

I suspect he will still be pressing it if I didn't stop him, because I inadvertently got some annoy people on the line.

GrokIt
May 13th, 2008, 02:05 PM
Start them on computers as soon as they show an interest. You should never push anything on a kid (unless it's school work or vegetables). My four year old has been playing Ben 10 flash games for about a year now. He knows how to to type his name and other stuff that I write out for him and he has learned some small words already like quit, load, save, although he doesn't yet know how to read "you are over-encumbered" from Oblivion. I have started showing him some educational programs and he has started to pick up more of the basics of math and reading. I will continue this so that he has a real head start when he starts school.
As long as you use an intelligent balance between the computer and actual physical play, I see no problem with starting a kid at any time he/she is ready.
Unfortunately, I have decided to follow my head and not my heart by exposing him to both Linux and the evil OS. IMHO most large businesses will be using MS for years to come. http://ubuntuforums.org/images/smilies/icon_mad.gif

billgoldberg
May 13th, 2008, 02:51 PM
I have a six-year-old brother, and I was wondering at what age everyone thinks is a good age for a kid to start on computers. His only experience so far is when I set him up on the Fischer Price site to play a Flash game. He knows how to use the mouse, and that's basically it. He plays X-Box (Lego Star Wars, most of the time, and can almost beat me in Burnout). He's still learning how to read and write, and he's homeschooled. My parents aren't very tech savvy, and I'm in college; combine that with a full-time job, and I don't have much time to teach anything.

My main question is: when do you start teaching kids how to use a computer? I know that kids are a lot smarter than we give them credit for, and if I was able to give my brother full access to a computer he'd probably teach me a thing or to now. They'd grasp the basics such as the mouse, keyboard, CDs, etc. They grow up with it around them, and seeing others use computers is about as common as breathing. I can tell my brother is a budding geek - he's more obsessed with Star Wars than I am, and it surprises me that he knows terms like hard drive, or DVD (Though, when he was younger, he called it a CDD ;) ). He can load the Xbox himself, and has helped my mom troubleshoot the computer more than once (He turned on the monitor for her). By teaching, I mean more specific programs, or even incorporating computers into his curriculum (as I said, he's homeschooled, so it'd be easy).

What I'd like to do is get an old laptop I have laying around, install Edubuntu, and begin with letting him teach himself what he can and ask questions he needs, and go from there. I wouldn't just say, "You're on your own, kid," and leave him to get frustrated. IMHO, it's just as important to teach typing at this early an age as it is to teach them writing - even more so, if trends continue the way they do. Things like that. While I won’t have him take BASIC lessons along with English, I think it’s very important today to get kids acclimated to technology as early as possible.

So... comments? Criticizm? Other opinions? I'd really like to hear what others have to say.

My now 9 year old brother can use the pc better than the average windows user base. And he even uses Ubuntu without any problems when he comes to visit.

When I was still living with my mother, I showed him some basic stuff (how to add file to an mp3 player, how to download songs, how open programs use and them). He isn't as interested in computers as I am, but at least he knows he shouldn't open emails from strangers, or click the "ok" box in windows without thinking.

Young kids grasp these things faster than I did (I still remember the time when nobody had a pc in his home). and if they show an interest in computers, by all means learn them more advanced stuff.

The world will always need tech/computer savvy people.

Venality
May 13th, 2008, 03:53 PM
Heh, i Started when i was 10 and i love them and i have general experience on Windows, Mac's OS 8.0 - X, and now i am starting my Ubuntu journey but i wouldn't "Start" them on computers just teach them a little so they aren't computer retarded

LaRoza
May 13th, 2008, 03:59 PM
I didn't have access to a computer in the house until I was over 18 when I bought my own. (I am 20 now)

I went through school without a computer and I grew up without one. No one would accuse me of being behind and I think I have benefitted from not having one.

jaytek13
May 13th, 2008, 04:02 PM
I would hope it wouldn't be until later in life (mid teens). If I were to have a child I wouldn't want them sitting in front of the computer all day rather than going out and playing with their friends. I'd much rather they use the playground for social interaction than myspace.

sixdrift
May 13th, 2008, 05:05 PM
My 6 year old uses the computer quite a bit. She has trouble finding stuff because she is still learning to read (she is in kindergarten). But once she is on the right site, she can whiz around her flash games quite easily.

And "way back in the day", when my oldest son was a mere 7, he was swapping out video drivers on our Windows box because it had a problem and he watched me do it a couple of times.

The real issue is how do you help the kid learn while keeping them from the really awful stuff out there.

So for Internet, we monitor our kids quite closely. But for local use, like writing and games and such, we encourage them to try out the interfaces and see how it works. Worst case they break it, then I just reload it.

And for the record, my kids spend most of their free time outside. But when the mosquitos come out in the evening and they come in, they play on computers, board games, and anything else. Its usually a family thing.

Sinkingships7
May 13th, 2008, 07:26 PM
As a few others have said, I'd say that a child should develop their own interests and not have any 'field' forced upon them. For me, I started with computers when I was 5. All I ever did was become a hands-down Doom95 master for a couple years. I never did too much else. Slowly, I began to wonder how things worked, and started on my own adventure to discover what I could about computers.

I just think it should be an itch-and-scratch approach when it comes to kids developing an interest in computers.

darth_indy
May 13th, 2008, 08:53 PM
As he progresses through his education you and your parents could integrate computer technology. Some simple examples:

when he starts writing little stories, he could do drafts in an exercise book and publish nice versions using a word processor.
he could learn to use the dictionary on the computer as well as a physical one
he could do some artwork in Inkscape or a painting program (either as illustrations for his other school work or as part of his art curriculum)
he could learn to use the internet for research (supplementing old fashioned research from books)
he could make slideshow presentations of what he's learnt at the end of a topic study
he could write emails to a "penpal" across the world


Thanks for all the great suggestions! I was thinkign along those lines, especially the writing-then-typing a story. He's already doing cursive, and rather well, so don't get me wrong; he's definitely doing well at handwriting. As for letting him IM, I would only ever let him do it with me or very close family. Besides, I always type with proper grammar, punctuation, and spelling when IMing anyways. Annoys my friends, but I'm a word nerd :)

I agree with everyone's concerns about the internet. I don't think I'd let him get on the internet unsupervized for a long time. I learned this lesson a long time ago when my sister was looking up stuff for a project about Alaskan animals. So she typed arcticanimals.com - luckily there was a "You must be 18 or older to enter" splashpage, and she asked me what it meant. I was only 13 at the time, but I knew well enough that those kind of pages = bad. I have an old junker laptop (ex-Win98) that I'd load with Edubuntu, and after set-up, get rid of the 'net connection. If he needs to get online, we have three other computers.

I also agree that kids shouldn't be forced into any specific field, and if he turns out to be uninterested in computers I'm not gonna force him to learn programming or anything.

My parents weren't too bad with my sister and I; I started on computers pre-Kidnergarden (4 or 5), on an old B/W Mac with some sort of kid's game that had a mouse and raisin cookies (Don't ask me how I remember that). My sister just gradually started working on the computer around 2nd grade. But now I think they're pushing back the age again with my brother, as he's entering 2nd grade soon, and has very little experience with computers.

Overall, I like the suggestions best of having a dedicated partition and/or machine (if possible) for him to mess around with and not destroy anything important. Not give him the root password, and let him play. If he crashes it, nothing's lost, and he learns not to do that again.

Thanks again, and keep it coming :)

Lostincyberspace
May 13th, 2008, 09:29 PM
let him (or her I cant remember if it was a brother or sister) play on Gcompris it is designed to let kids learn about computers. my cousin was afraid her son (2 years old) would mess up my computer when I let him play on it. But since it was Linux I said let him try if he can do it then I will give him the computer needless to say she thought she was getting a new computer. But any her son loved it and she wanted to know how to get the program so I gave them a live cd and showed her husband how to install and how to get gcompris and that was that.

Ioky
May 14th, 2008, 02:01 AM
I was say, 2 to 4, depend on how fast your kid can learn. Really, is computer really that hard? I don't think so. I mean if you want to get advance that is another story, even just writing in extreme level is super hard. But at the other hard, train them to solve problem, teach them programming, when they are little, most parents think, they are just kid, believe me, they are smarter then you think they are. The only reason why kid can't do much as we are is because they need more guide then we do. As long you have enough time to guide them through, they are more then you think they are. At the same time, give them physical train (Bring them out and play). It help gown their brain. music and art would also help. if they tell you,I am going to something something some day. You should told them, you should told them, you should start training yourselve today.

seriously, computer today is just as important as reading and write. If your kid can do whatever you can by like 12, Your are a good parents. Sound I bit crazy, It really work

tdrusk
May 14th, 2008, 03:44 AM
Format his computer, hand him a Linux From Scratch cd, and make him work like a man.

:lolflag:

I started using a computer when I was 3-5. I learned how to start a msdos program and play it (some Mickey Mouse alphabet game).

darrenn
May 14th, 2008, 05:00 AM
12

Lord DarkPat
May 14th, 2008, 05:08 AM
my brother is four, at three, he could change my GTK theme(I'm totally serious),use the number pad properly, and make some piano jingles in LOGO(I set that up for him). He can actually beat me at SSX and Almost in NFS. Me being 12 doesn't say much about my comp skills, does it? :,

zmjjmz
October 16th, 2008, 12:06 AM
I'm going to eventually get that Breeze 3110 and then my 6 year old sister (hopefully she'll still be 6 by then...) will get her computer lessons.
She's used a computer before, but usually with assistance.

Ioky
October 19th, 2008, 11:39 AM
as soon as they can speak three difference language. or as soon as they are 3 years old. It is a good idea that they learn writing before they can type. BTW, they should know how to compile their own kernel at the age of 10.

PS: Of course, if they can't even access a computer, thing will be difference.