Kids, Computers, and Entertainment

“Are computers good for learning?”

“Isn’t educational television okay?”

“What about those free online homeschool programs?”

Education guru Susan Wise Bauer said it best: Television and computer learning are PASSIVE LEARNING (your brain goes slack, letting the screen do all the mind-filling), whereas reading is ACTIVE LEARNING (brain is intellectually stimulated as it decodes words and digests new ideas)

Still, computers should NOT be banned! My mother–a volunteer advocate for rape victims–said: “Kids raised without computers are more vulnerable to Internet predators” because so many young girls get lured into predators’ snares (and young men into gaming/porn addictions) when parents refuse them computer access or fail to teach them “cyber street smarts.”

For more information and better advice, you should read what the Lazy Organizer has to say. She’s the EXPERT (and has the successful kids to prove it!)

Our standards with regards to computers, kids, and education are as follows:

  1. TELEVISION: We own a television, but only watch selected movies as a family. We do not have cable or satellite TV–and although this is mostly for practical reasons (I prefer to spend my money on tangible stuff, thank you!), we’ve enjoyed some amazing benefits as a result. Our children read more often, use their free time to be creative, and they don’t ask for tons of toys like the TV-watching kids who are bombarded by commercials all day.
  2. COMPUTER: Computer use is allowed as a supplement to science or history lessons (for research or visuals). But I search online WITH my children, and am quick to point out the stranger danger along the way: “Look at those banners–be careful not to click on them!” I say. “That ad was put their by a stranger who wants you to go see his site. We NEVER visit a stranger’s site!” I also let them send e-mails to grandparents or cousins, so that they will learn responsible e-communication from me (because of what my mother told me about a college-age victim whose “e-mail innocence” led to correspondence with a creepy predator who eventually convinced her that he was her soul mate . . .  ).
  3. GAMES: My kids are allowed to play educational games online at Discovery Kids, National Geographic Kids, or PBS Kids web sites as a RARE TREAT, but I stay close by and watch their every move. I also point out possible dangers as they play (for example: “Look at how they are asking you for your e-mail address. Do you think you should give it to them?”). We also have educational games on CD ROM, games like “Oregon Trail” (history, sociology) and “Where in the World is Carmen SanDiego?” (geography).
  4. VIDEO GAMES? None. I’ve never had a single positive experience as a result of letting my children play non-educational video or computer games. They always flip out when game time is over, crying and screaming for more. This almost instant addiction to recreational gaming is all the proof I need that such games are NOT a good idea for our family. If it isn’t educational, we do not play it, and I am constantly reminding my children why, the same way I remind them that we don’t drink alcohol or smoke cigarettes–because it is too easy to become addicted.

If you are looking for help/advice in establishing media boundaries in your home, I recommend you visit the following links:

What’s So Wrong About T.V.?

Can T.V. Help Literacy?

What About Video Games?

What About Educational Computer Programs?

Setting Limits for Responsible Children

Effects of Media on Infants and Toddlers

Teenagers and Television

How TV is Killing Us

The Virtues of T.V.

12 Alternatives to Television