1. Each child is different and a parent is an expert on their own kid but it’s like anything, the sooner we start telling them age appropriate explanations, the better. My daughter totally surprised me when she set up her own MySpace page many years ago: she identified herself as a 78 year old man in Washington State (we were in Virginia). So she definitely heard the message about being safe online!

    The best way to stop fear dead in its tracks is with information and we as parents will always hopefully be the trusted source of information for many aspects of life, not just wise computing or the birds and the bees.

  2. Chris: Not sure that there is enough evidence one way or another for me to take a hard stand on this, so I wander through it one day at a time (as I do with most things as a parent of 21, 20 and 12 year old children in 2010. That said, I am about 3/4 through a really interesting book called The Shallows: What the Internet is Doing to Our Brains, that takes a neuroscientific view of how are brains are changed by technology (from the map to the clock to the computer, etc.) The author, Nicholas Carr, discusses the differences in cognition, working memory and other brain use when we read a straight page of text versus having hyperlinked pages. Some fascinating points to ponder that led me to wonder how to balance allowing my children (the 12 year old anyway) to experience a new way of thinking online without losing the cognitive abilities required to contemplate a longer more complicated piece of text that does not offer the distraction of a video or audio clip midway through…

  3. Kids need to learn both the hard AND soft skills at an early age. For example, cyber-bullying is a very real – and much more potent form – of bullying. Every time we introduce new technologies, we cut new grooves for ourselves and our kids, where morals/norms/etc. haven’t been explored yet. Ethics of doing the right thing are needed to support technology introduction, IMHO.

    Oh… and then there are teaching the teachers about teaching the kids, but I suppose that is another thread, ay.

    Thanks for asking, Chris.

  4. Thanks for bringing this topic into discussion, Chris! My son often uses my I-pod touch, goes to You Tube searches: Start Wars, and comes up with some comical yet inappropriate you tube parodies. He has learned a few words he shouldn’t know and is liberal in the way he shares them….not good! Nonetheless, I am continually proud of the character and extraordinary vocabulary the little fella has developed…..he is way ahead of the others.

    Conundrum to say the least…..

  5. Polly Jones

    I gave my kids desktop computers in 1st grade, I think? However, they had online security software and parental controls all set to the highest possible thing. I monitor their use, and use the features of my router to only let them connect during specified times. Now that they are older, I use Norton Online Family to parental control, allow or disallow websites, chat, email, etc. It also has a time restriction feature, and lets me see every website they go to.

    I want them to grow up with the benefits of technology, but in a scope I can control. They already grow up fast enough!

  6. Chris,

    I love your attitude on tech and kids. I have a 2 year old daughter who is picking up pretty quickly on things that we never dreamed of when I was her age. For example, I have an old iPhone (with no SIM card) that she uses to watch videos in the car. She is pretty good at starting and stopping the video and is getting better with the controls overall.

    We don’t skip the physical media, but we want her to be comfortable yet responsible with new technology. I think it will make her world a better one in many ways. She’ll have access to knowledge of all sorts, be able to contribute to society in more ways and have a much more encompassing world view than she would have otherwise.

    She’s might be a Trust Agent sooner rather than later!

  7. My kindergartner recently asked why he has to do his homework with pencil and paper since he “knows how to type.” I thought it was a valid question, but he didn’t evade the assignment.

    My kids all have laptops and assorted other gadgets because I feel it is imperative that technology is part of what they breathe every day. We still play board games, crossword puzzles, camp in tents and have low tech fun, too. Parenting goals haven’t really changed with technological advancement– I think we all just want our children to be happy, well-rounded, well-adjusted, functioning members of society.

  8. Chris, great post. Like anything in life, really – moderation and proper guidance is key. Especially when introducing tech to kids. My 6 year old has had grandpa’s handed down laptop since he was 4. It started with learning how to use a mouse then how to type his name. Now he plays Disney and Lego games. Even if he could get to all that is evil on the WWW – I’m not sure he’d want to.
    But where I’ve really noticed his interest level rise – is when I got an iPad. We play chess nearly every morning on it.

  9. My boy is 9 and recently showed his teachers how to load different tabs on browser start up. I always sat him on my knee while I worked away on desktop or laptop and he now has a laptop and iPod touch of his own. He understands paying for services online and why some websites are not suitable.


    You have to get them in young now, teach them respect for the interwebs, it’s failures and delights, it’s pitfalls and possibilities but agree that it should not be a replacement for paper, pens and pencils. That is why the re-birth of the tablet is exciting. I had an Atari 400 back in 19 canteen and my pride and joy was my graphics tablet and it kept me drawing and doodling while still getting in pooter time!

    Exciting times ahead for the dads and the kids.

  10. As a dad of a special needs child, I’m a fan of technology. I believe that our skill sets and what we teach children needs to change to support the success of our children. Its great to teach how to write with a pen and pencil because we all still make personal notes but realistically I’m not terribly concerned about the penmanship of my daughter b/c she has tools that will allow her not to have to use it.

    As an ADD Dyslexic I found my career in Computer/business because at 10 years old I understood with a computer I didn’t need to be an excellent speller, I could rely on technology that would help correct my problems. I was eleven when we bought our first computer and I’ve been using the tools since.

    As for education children on the use of social media and the internet in general, I think it makes sense to use the idea of teachable moments but for more guided help I suggest checking out Ben Halpert and Savvy Cyber Kids. I did an interview with Ben here on DAD-o-Matic in JanuarySavvy Cyber Kids . He has his first children’s book coming out in the begining of October and I’m really looking forward to it.

  11. I think integrating tech, combined with good old fashioned forms of communication, like writing letters and such, creates perspective, invites creativity, and gives them historical context for innovation and analytical thinking. Personally, my 6 year old can take pictures on my iphone and email her grandparents, but we also encourage her to write them handwritten letters, too. Do you “mix and match” with your son?

  12. I used to be a middle school ESL teacher in Spanish Harlem and everyday I used technology in some way with my students – twitter for the shy kids to ask questions during group presentations, goodreads for students to write book reviews, flickr for them to create slideshows of the science projects, tumblr as a blog for various writing and creative projects.

    I believe tech is very important to share with kids. Teaching them how to use different things and showing them the boundaries/rules to keep them safe is key. After that show them how to use tech to express themselves.

    Look at the tools you use everyday and ask yourself how can my kid use this to develop his ideas/thoughts. Sometimes just giving kids space to experiment will lead to incredible things like this post from a student I taught a few years ago http://diego010.tumblr.com/post/86996174/justice

  13. Hi Chris:

    I’m sure I’ll be in the dissenting minority in these comments, but here goes…

    I am a Luddite when it comes to exposing young children to technology. Admittedly, my opinion–and parenting–was shaped by the Waldorf school my three kids attended when they were young. (One just graduated from college, one just started college and one is in his teens.)

    More than any given pedagogy, however, I had a gut feeling that young children’s work is play. Imaginative play, play with friends and play in nature–unmediated by electronic or digital media.

    Even setting aside the idea that technology is damaging to young kids, I’m still stuck with the time it wastes. Time better spent, IMHO, by letting a child play with all his senses… outside with mud, sticks and stones…indoors, with simple toys…listening to and telling stories… play acting…day dreaming.

    I think this “work” is crucial to kids’ health, education and happiness.

    And unfortunately, in a tech-focused culture, many of these slow, simple childhood pastimes fall by the wayside.

    Of course, older children need to master technology. But when? I don’t think you have to “start kids young” to assure technological deftness. In fact, I think they will be more critical and creative thinkers and better able to use technology holistically if it’s introduced later. And I think they can pick up what they need to know at any age.

    But what will they lose if they pick it up too early?

  14. Jim DeLorenzo

    Interesting topic, Chris. There certainly are a lot of learning opportunities for our kids and I think it’s essential that they develop basic skills – but wait until they’re ready. My 5 year-old son enjoys educational games on sites such as pbskids.org and he’s getting pretty good with the laptop’s mousepad. His almost 3 year-old twin sisters, however, can’t be trusted yet as they removed every key from the keyboard yesterday.

  15. My daughter is 20. She and all of her classmates used computers from an early age, first for fun at home, and then their school required computer skills (using popular programs, looking up things on line) starting in the third grade or so. What blows my mind is that NONE of them left high school knowing how to properly keyboard. NONE, not even any of the girls. I don’t know how they don’t go stark raving crazy.

  16. While my kids didn’t attend Waldorf schools, I find myself nodding in agreement with Lorraine. I’m no techno-hater, nor is my husband, whose job at Twitter is only the latest chapter in his love affair with technology. But I’ve seen what constant “on-demand” information and entertainment can do to some kids. It can render the slower, more mentally-intensive processes of reading, imaginative play and manual work “boring.” Their vocabularies and command of facts is excellent; their attention, creativity patience and manual dexterity can suffer.

    Keep in mind that I say SOME kids…not all kids react this way. Some can play 15 minutes of a video game then happily run outside. But others get sucked in, and spend all of their non-electronic time counting down the minutes till they can plug in again.

    We love movies and the Internet. But were I to do it all over again in an ideal world, I’d introduce screens, tech, and electronics later. Not really possible in our family with one parent who’s a blogger, and the other who telecommutes to his programming job at an Internet company. But still.

  17. Does Declan hacking into @bugfrog’s iPhone and tweeting “you farted” count?

  18. I’ve seen what constant “on-demand” information

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