Postcards from Mommywood: Preschoolers and Computers
What’s so bad about spending time away from the keyboard?
Now that texting and Twitter have made email almost quaint, a new compulsion has emerged. The desire among young and old to have instantaneous access to information and the increasingly commonplace habit of bleating out our own exalted opinion to our “friends,” “fans,” and—even if they don’t want to get them—family, has fostered a whole new genre of worry for parents.
Welcome to the age of Internet Anxiety.
Having acknowledged my Internet addiction, I have taken steps to monitor the free time I spend checking my favorite sites. I do some serious time-wasting on Facebook. Honestly, though, in the media business, I’m finding you’re nobody unless you’ve got at least 400 friends, so my time spent coming up with clever quips for my status updates and trolling through the random 250 posts of News Feeds is for strictly professional reasons. I swear.
While my five year-old daughter hasn’t expressed any interest in Facebook, she has been asking with increasing frequency about spending time on the sites that she hears about while watching her favorite television shows. My husband and I sit at the computer with her for 15-minute intervals a few times a week and play games (Kai-Lan’s Happy House is a particular favorite). She hasn’t mastered the whole point-and-click thing yet, but she’s getting there.
Is this a good thing?
I’m aware that today’s child needs to be fully conversant in computers, but at what age? Some preschools make a big show of having a computer for the classroom, and some even offer computer classes. At the start of the school year, I asked my daughter’s teacher if computers were going to be part of the curriculum, and she told me the school had one computer in the class that was going to be removed. She said the school found that for preschoolers, it was a distraction. Kids wound up vying for time at the computer rather than engaging in the activities that were part of the class schedule. She also said, “We don’t know how much time the children are spending at the computer at home, so we think it’s best not to include it as part of the class day at this stage.”
At first, I was disappointed and thought, “What if all the other pre- schools in the area were including computers in their classes?”
That was immediately followed by another thought: “Is that really a bad thing?”
The answer, at least for our family, is no.
Here I am, an adult struggling to whittle down my time spent online so I can be more productive. Did I really want to have my child introduced to something that could be equally distracting—but in her case, take her away from the fleeting joys of childhood?
The answer is no.
Maybe it’s a counter-intuitive response, but, in my house, it’s the right one.