Too Young for A Computer?

baby on a laptop

How Young is Too Young for A Computer?

Children who do not have the use of a computer at home are often at a huge disadvantage in public schools and it seems like the age when our children are expected to have at least basic computer skills is getting younger all the time.

I am curious though, where is the cut off?

How young is too young for a computer?

I have a huge fear of children growing up too fast and forgetting to just be kids. I fear that we become so worried about a child’s future that we neglect to help them truly live and enjoy every single moment of right now.

Has playtime been replaced with computer time?

Has quality time feeding ducks at the local park with our children gone by the wayside while we play early reading games on the laptop with them?

When I was young, about a gazillion decades ago, the big fear was television. Our parents were terrified we would begin living our lives through the television screen.

Perhaps that fear has simply moved to the computer screen.

If our 10 year old is fascinated with computer languages and spends hours learning it, who are we to interfere with that? Is it any different than the child who spends hours practicing the piano or drawing?

As with most things in life, it always comes back to finding balance in our lives. I see no reason why children, even very young children, cannot enjoy technology as soon as they begin to show interest in it, as long as we balance it all out with other fun things.

What are your thoughts? Are we headed the wrong direction?

How young do you feel is too young for a computer?

J. Cricket Walker ofย


  1. Don CrowderDon Crowder05-19-2011

    When my kids were little I was furious to learn that they would first be exposed to a computer in the 6th grade but wouldn’t be able to take typing until the 8th grade. So, when the kids were finally taught typing they’d have to unlearn their self-taught hunt-and-peck techniques in order to properly learn how to type. Is there anything harder than unlearning bad habits?

    On the other hand, I can’t see how a child of any age wouldn’t benefit from exposure to the Open Source Childsplay suite of games for kids.

    What I did for my own children was to invest in some typing tutorial games for my Apple II+ so my kids would have a chance to learn typing while playing with the computer. This helped all my girls but especially helped my youngest daughter who became an excellent touch typist by the time she was in the fifth grade.

  2. HaleyHaley05-19-2011

    I think it all comes down to balance. I was raised on computers, but we always found time to play and go outside. Yes, some people do take it too far. However, that doesn’t mean that other kids, the same age, who find ways to balance their time better are “too young” for computer time.

  3. ZapZap05-19-2011

    “Has playtime been replaced with computer time?”

    That’s the line that got me, right there. I think it’s best if you combine them.
    One of the best methods of learning for small children is through play.
    If you can combine playtime and computer time, the learning will almost come naturally. Kids love games and cartoons and there are lots of websites for kids of all ages that contain things that small children will be interested in. Smaller children will watch how you navigate the web and when they feel comfortable enough to do it themselves, they will take the mouse out of your hand and go to town.

    You just have to remember to keep watch. If left to their own devices, they will find the not so nice parts of the internet so you have to guard against that with hands-on supervision.

  4. ElaineElaine05-19-2011

    I’ve actually found computers encourage playtime for my son. There are sites like Fisher-Price with age-appropriate games… even before he could talk, he loved the games where you could press any key on the keyboard and the rainforest animals would make noises and pop across the screen. It is getting harder and harder though to find lines to draw… I feel like as with all things, moderation is the key. If you completely discourage use of the computer, the kids may not get a healthy appreciation for what it can do or for how badly addicted you could become. So I say teach them both educational and entertaining uses, and also carefully monitor the amount of time they spend and where they spend it… pretty much like you monitor and limit television.

  5. SueSue05-19-2011

    My kids don’t remember Baby Type but it was the first thing they did on the computer at about 6 months old. They wanted to sit on my lap while I was on the computer and try to type too while I was usually IMing with their grandmother… I let them bang on the keyboard and “help” for that but Baby Type was completely for them… I used it as a screensaver when the phone rang and I had to turn away from the computer…. locked the keyboard and all they got were letters, shapes and sounds…. usually causing squeals of delight. I knew what they were doing at least and the computer didn’t get hurt…. well maybe the keyboard got drooled on!
    Since then they’ve had numerous games on my PC and then on their own PC that they network game with the adults as a team…. I have funny video of my youngest getting so excited that he tipped his chair over during one game session.
    The kids are now going into 4th & 6th grade and when they ask questions I can’t answer or don’t feel like trying to explain I tell them to go look it up…. it gives them valuable research skills along with an excuse to go read something. They have a pretty open system with search locked down to safe and a plugin that gives them a visual clue as to if the site is safe. I’ve taught them how to look at the results and read the URLS so they know where they are going. So far so good no viruses and no porn on the system.
    Both kids have their own blogs they write on. The younger is more prolific in his writings and sometimes just plain funny. Getting told he has comments causes an excitement level matched only by Christmas morning!
    Both kids are being taught to touch type and have been for a while now and can rival me for speed… now if only they could spell better!
    Don’t get me wrong here, right now their computer is OFF and BOTH are outside somewhere playing with friends in the sunshine. Their interest in the computer seems to be seasonal… the warmer and sunnier it is the more the machine is off…. so about 6 months on and 6 months off considering how short our winter days are….it is Alaska after all!

    Computers are beneficial in this day and age but YES it HAS to be a balance of machine vs human interaction!

  6. Karen BainKaren Bain05-20-2011

    Balance. It is all about balance. My 4 year old grandson took to his Dad’s i-phone like, well, a duck to water. And, his interest in computers is his own. Not encouraged by his parents. Parents must govern the content and amount of time their kids spend on computers. And, plan time for feeding the ducks.

  7. Jim TsapJim Tsap05-21-2011

    As Karen Bain have already said it’s all about balance. Every child should have various ways to entertain itself. There is no age limit on kids using computers.

    I have 6-12 years old students whose parents keep asking me the same question. I simply say to them 2 tips: A) Know what your child is watching on TV and Computers, B) Raise time boundaries.
    Use a kitchen watch, add 45 mins (especially on small ages). When the time is up, you should remind your child that there are others things it can do now. Maybe sometimes it’s hard to stop them, after the predifined time, from using computers. It’s better to offer them another joyful task to pass their time.

    Children should find joy on all things in life… and yes duck feeding is something they shouldn’t miss. ๐Ÿ™‚

  8. Doc SheldonDoc Sheldon05-21-2011

    I think balance is the key, as several have said. I have seen three-year-olds that were able to actually navigate somewhat, which just dropped my jaw! We all know that computers have become a part of our every day lives, in some fashion or another, so I think depriving a child of the opportunity to become proficient in their use is going to hold them back at some point.
    For kids up to pre-teen (or even beyond), I think a good rule of thumb would be, “you buy your on-line time with the off-line time you spend”. In other words, an hour at the park buys you and hour at the keyboard. ๐Ÿ˜‰

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  10. Jim GillumJim Gillum05-22-2011

    In see the computer as a tool and a vehicle for entertainment, when considering age….
    How old should a little boy be allowed to hit a golf ball?…….A little girl be allowed to play the piano?
    Moderation is the key……
    In today’s society, computer knowledge is an asset……in the future, who knows how much more important it will be…..

  11. ScriptManScriptMan05-22-2011

    In the late 1980’s I read the handwriting on the wall. My son was on my lap whacking away at the keys from about the age of 4. At 6 or 7 he got his own computer toy (simulated computer). I don’t even recall what it was but it was the new thing at the time.

    Now 25 years later I ask him for help sometimes. I am not sure he is a patient with me as I was with him. Maybe 10 years of tech support do that to a guy. He currently works in the IT department of a major University.

    Bottom line IMO, it is never to early to start them. But do keep in mind that manners, how to clean and how to cook are also virtues that may survive the neutron storms or bombs that destroy computers. Raise a well rounded child who knows how to use a computer.

  12. CharnellCharnell07-07-2011

    My Granddaughter began playing with my iPad at the age of nearly 2 years old. Within a couple of weeks, she was learning how to ‘swipe’ to the application that she wanted to open. When I discovered that she was learning “something” (she knew if she tapped/swiped an icon, it opened the app), I downloaded several learning games – such as learning numbers, ABC’s, colors, etc. Within a couple of months, she was using the iPad for HER applications. I credit that experience back then, along with me and her Mother teaching her “offline”, her being able to clearly count to 10 and knowing the full alphabet today. She’s 2.5 years old.

    For work, I telecommute. When I’m at my desk, my Granddaughter will come in and sit in my lap – when she does, that reminds me that it’s break time. We open up Google, I click Images, and I begin typing in “Dog, Cat, Apple, Bus, Ball, Star, etc”. Today – she knows what each and every image is that I pull up.

    With all this said, we’ve also bought her books and learning toys. She also spends her weekends outside, at the park, and doing things that a child should do – like being Grandma’s little helper in the kitchen, learning how to stir mixes, whip eggs, and more.

    I truly believe that the earlier you can get a child interested in learning with technology, the better and brighter their future looks. Why? Because we live in tech-times and it’s certainly not going away.

    You all above me in your posts hit the nail on the head — it’s all about balance.

  13. Akash KumarAkash Kumar09-12-2011

    I think teenagers should spend more time in the real world than on computers. A teen young as that should be out playing with friends and stuff instead on computers doing programming. But thats how it is that leads innovations.

  14. DavidDavid11-12-2011

    It is the DISCIPLINE effective in the house rules and the BALANCE in every little things do..It is not that they are prohibited of using technologies but there should be the right time for them to actually use it.The actual age they are suited into..AS of now they should have been enjoyed first to kiddie things..technologies are helpful to them but on the right time..

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