WE LIVE in an increasingly technology-based society. Children need to be prepared to enter a workforce and a world in which computers are a focal point of everyday life.

There are several benefits to children using computers, both in the classroom and at home. So, I thought I’d share some information on children and how computers can help them.
Now that most of the schools in Guyana are closed, many parents are wondering, and to some extent have no idea, what to do with their children, especially if the schools, religious or social groups have nothing planned for the little ones during the vacation period.
Sometime last week, a good friend of mine approached me, looking all frustrated and lost, saying, “Praem, what will I do with my son now that school is closed?” I advised her to send him to computer classes. But her response was, “Nah! He too small!” I was taken aback! Come on! An eight-year-old kid  too small for computer classes! I don’t think so! Having shared my little story with you, I now bring to you some benefits pertaining to kids and the usage of computers.

Developmental Benefits

Research suggests that three and four-year-old children exposed to computer activities that reinforce major educational objectives have greater developmental gains than children not exposed to computers, reports the Clearinghouse on Early Education and Parenting. These gains occurred in areas such as intelligence, nonverbal skills, structural knowledge, long-term memory, manual dexterity, verbal skills, problem solving, abstraction and conceptual skills. For kindergartners and early elementary students, the benefits of computers include improved motor skills, increased math skills, increased creativity and higher scores on standardized tests.

Computer Skills Benefits
Simply using a computer can have an impact on young children’s ability to correctly use a computer. Scholastic suggests that parents use creative computer activities with children to increase their computer skills. In addition to increasing computer skills, the activities can boost confidence in using a computer, by allowing for creative exploration. Parents are encouraged to help their young child type some text, and then use software programs to decorate the words. Young children can learn how to copy and paste by typing one word, copying it, and pasting it over and over into a Word document. Colouring books are also easy to make by enlarging the text and making it into an outline to print out and colour.

Educational Benefits
Being able to learn on a computer has opened up new ways for students to develop academically, especially those who struggle with a learning disorder. Countless websites offer reading and math interventions already designed to help students with specific disabilities. Whereas a teacher in the classroom once had to work long hours to find ways to help hard-to-reach children, the computer provides ready-made activities and interactive games for immediate use. Microsoft Encarta is a good example of this; it has a superb dictionary that actually pronounces words for you.

Communication Benefits
Because of computers and the Internet, our world is more closely connected than it has ever been in any other century. Children are not only able to learn about other cultures and their belief systems in a textbook, but they can actually talk to people, and find out firsthand, through discussion boards, instant messaging and chat rooms. It is a great benefit for children to learn about other countries, their people and their cultural environment, because it instills in them a sense of community and tolerance.Email is a helpful tool in expanding children’s communication skills, according to the United States Department of Commerce. In a Nebraska project, youngsters used email to communicate with senior citizens in their community, and the result was increased opportunity for learning, bonding and understanding. Children can also use computers to communicate with members of their extended family, and in case of a move, kids can stay in touch with friends from their old neighbourhood.

Career Benefits
By being knowledgeable about computers and the World Wide Web, children will be able to research career opportunities as well as the universities that can prepare them for their chosen profession. They will also have the opportunity to work at their computers from home or other remote locations, making it possible to work for employers all over the world.

Accessibility Benefits
One of the main benefits of computers for children is the availability of knowledge, and its instant access. Children can research any subject for academic or personal use from an endless variety of sources. This encourages children to think critically, as they learn how to find information and navigate search engines.

Expansion of World View
Computer use expands children’s world view, according to Western Illinois University. Youngsters in rural locations can pay virtual visits to art museums; city kids can learn about farms and forests. Children have unparalleled access to information about other countries, too. They can visit travel websites, view online videos, download international recipes and crafts projects and correspond with email pals from all over the world.

Personal Benefits
Through computers, children have the potential to change their outlook on their abilities, confidence and self-esteem. A shy or withdrawn child can talk to others from the privacy of a keyboard. Children with emotional problems or those who are not often around other children do not have to feel totally isolated if they have access to the outside world via the Internet.

Creative Expression
Computer use exponentially increases options for creative growth and artistic expression, according to the United States Department of Commerce. In a Vermont project sponsored by the Department of Commerce, students were able to compose music, email it to professional musicians and teachers and receive electronic critiques of their work. Computers allow children of many age groups to develop artistic skills in photography, film-making, drawing and design, in addition to music.

Parent Child Interaction
The experts at The National Association for the Education of Young Children, NAEYC, recommend that parents work with young children when using the computer to learn how their child thinks and learns, according to PBS. Observing how children interact with the computer can provide an understanding of how young children go about solving problems. Working with a young child on the computer can promote social interaction and help develop speaking and listening skills. The NAEYC also recommends that parents’ guide their children when using software so they are able to answer questions and interact with the young child as she is exposed to new things. Any type of parent child interaction is important for young children and the increased use of computers provides valuable time for parents to spend with their child
We live in a computer age. By exposing kids to computers at young ages, they are exposed to a skill that adults have to catch up to. Children will be able to keep up in the Information Age and will do so successfully.
Another advantage involves the amount of information available via the Internet. Some smaller, rural schools may not have the same tangible resources as larger schools. Computers help level the playing field by allowing all students to have access to different ideas, thoughts, and materials they would not otherwise have. So, Parents/Guardian, do what’s best for your children. And, never say it’s too much for the Kid, learning is never too much. Give you kids a digitalizing holiday, it will come in handy.


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