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Exposing Children to Technology? 466

Posted by Cliff
from the how-young-is-too-young dept.
LabelThis asks: "While I'm not a huge fan of immersing children in technology, there is a certain point at which you must expose them to the tools that will help them be successful in the world. Looking back, I distinctly remember my parents making every effort to provide a computer for me and my sibling, early on (they bought an Atari 400 for us when I was 5). Either by accident or on purpose, that single decision (and the continued follow up of purchasing newer computers as needed) shaped my future and the future of my siblings. I now have a daughter, and my wife and I have a number of years to before we worry about equipping her with technology (right now spending time with her and helping her be a happy well adjusted toddler are our primary concerns). In the spirit of my parents choice, what type of tools should parents be equipping their children with, today?"
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Exposing Children to Technology?

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  • by Zantetsuken (935350) on Tuesday February 21, 2006 @11:46PM (#14773787) Homepage
    with or without tech, that away they wont be screwed if they dont have their favorite tech, but make sure they are plenty exposed to tech so they arent screwed in the job market later in life...
    • by thx1138_az (163286) on Wednesday February 22, 2006 @01:10AM (#14774265)
      As a "technologist" I work for da man. Now that you have made da money, teach 'em to be da man.

      Personally my children are going to be better than me. My father was a barber, I'm a computer tech. It's a step forward but we still are in the "service industry" working for someone else. Technology is a business tool and I'm just a tool that operates the tool. I want my kids to both master those tools and be the master of those tools. MBA all the way, get them some seed money and then let them become the cio, ceo or c-insert_letter_here-o of their company. Providing I can keep 'em off da drugs.
      • by Slithe (894946) on Wednesday February 22, 2006 @02:03AM (#14774552) Homepage Journal
        How old are your children? Are you sure they want to be MBAs? If they are less than 15 years of age, they most likely have no idea about what they want to do. I am not saying that becoming an MBA is a bad thing, but make sure it is their passion. Having to fulfill their parents' dreams instead of their own is what puts a lot of kids on 'da drugs' in the first place.
      • It is not your choice...
        • My great-grand-father (following dad's line) had a bike-repair shop.
        • My grand-father was an accountant.
        • My dad is an economist, but reverted quite early to IT. (in the seventies to be exact... Self-taught of course, he can't really program)
        • I am a computer scientist.

        As you can see, there is clearly a up-going line. According to your idea, I should encourage my kids to become MBA's. You know what? My dad wanted *me* to become an MBA, because it was *his* vision of "his-

      • Personally my children are going to be better than me. My father was a barber, I'm a computer tech. It's a step forward but we still are in the "service industry" working for someone else. Technology is a business tool and I'm just a tool that operates the tool. I want my kids to both master those tools and be the master of those tools. MBA all the way, get them some seed money and then let them become the cio, ceo or c-insert_letter_here-o of their company. Providing I can keep 'em off da drugs.

        And people
  • Don't show them a calculator until they master the slide rule. A calculator can't tell you when you are a factor of magnitude or two off. A slide rule forces you to think about it.
  • jigga bomb (Score:4, Insightful)

    by sheaman (826235) on Tuesday February 21, 2006 @11:48PM (#14773801) Journal
    in my opinion, definately not the internet. it's not long before they/their friends start getting into AIM and things like that. before you know it, when they're still really small, they'll probably end up loading the computer with spyware and they might even have a myspace or something...teach em how to use a computer, but don't give em the internet until they're older and seem somewhat more responsible.
    • by TubeSteak (669689) on Wednesday February 22, 2006 @12:21AM (#14773997) Journal
      A computer is a tool, teach your kids that.
      The internet... is a distraction that young children don't need.

      Or if you do decide to stick them on the internet, be there while they use it. Make it an experience that involves you, the parent. Don't let the internet turn into the TV babysitter that some parents use.

      And for God's sake, don't let them log on as Administrator.
      • A computer is a tool, teach your kids that.
        The internet... is a distraction that young children don't need.


        Maybe i've been using Linux too long, but I've found that my computer is largely useless as a tool without an internet connection.

        -matthew
        • by Planesdragon (210349) <slashdot&castlesteelstone,us> on Wednesday February 22, 2006 @02:23AM (#14774624) Homepage Journal
          Maybe i've been using Linux too long, but I've found that my computer is largely useless as a tool without an internet connection.

          It's not Linux. It's you.

          A (short) list of things that a computer is good for without an internet connection.
          1. Calculator
          2. Budget tracking
          3. Media player
          4. word processor
          5. Learning Computer Programming
          6. playing computer games
          7. quiz-tester
          8. Study aide
          9. alarm clock

          All things that a kid could use, all avaluable (with proper setup) without the internet at all.
      • The internet... is a distraction that young children don't need.

        Not really. To be honest, I don't know how one could really raise children without Wikipedia.
    • What is the point of that? The internet is the computer these days. Any kid who grows up with a computer is going to be able to use applications and have a pretty good grasp on what's going on. That much is pretty much a given. The internet is too valuable as a resource to deny it them. SO what if they chat and have a Myspace? Why should that stop them from really learning how computers and the internet works if they are genuinely interested?

      So what if they get the computer loaded with spyware? It is just a
    • Re:jigga bomb (Score:3, Interesting)

      by westlake (615356)
      it's not long before they/their friends start getting into AIM and things like that.

      When did your parents start letting you use the telephone? "Instant Messaging" didn't begin with AOL. It began with Bell along about 1876.

      Our family preserves Grandmother's postcard correspondence as a seven year old girl in 1904. They are delightful and revealing. Consider it her entry into a larger world.

  • I believe that "My First" toys are always a good choice, provided the parent spends time with the child to help them understand what is going on. If the child is old enough, help them to find books on subjects like computers, telephones, and cars: the basic tools that help us get things done in today's society. But most importantly, please teach them to be respectful of others' property and privacy, and to be responsible citizens using the technology to help others.
    • Books like "How Stuff Works" are good to have around so they can read about a lot of random different things.

      Having some video games around may get them interested in the field as a whole. Be a good parent and pay attention to what they play of course. Hold off on the GTA for a 5 year old. Sim City was a great game and made you think. A lot of simulation and strategy games would be appropriate.
  • hrn. (Score:5, Funny)

    by grub (11606) <slashdot@grub.net> on Tuesday February 21, 2006 @11:49PM (#14773809) Homepage Journal

    My parents gave me plastic bags when I was very young. I expecially liked the full-body dry cleaning ones. For my 4th birthday they game me an old refrigerator with a locking door. I loved it.
    • by ejaw5 (570071)
      Lois: I'm gonna go get some oranges Stewie. Here, hold the rest of these bags for mommy."
      Stewie: Oh, what brilliant parenting Lois. Leave a tiny infant with a plastic bag. You know I might asphyxiate myself just to teach you a lesson. Here I go. Just like that boy from INXS..(Stewie tries to put bag over top of his head.)
      Stewie: I'm going to do it! (Tries to put bag over left side of his head then climbs into it and tries pulling it over his head.)
      Stewie: BLAST! Good Lord Lois, either I was a c-section, or
  • by John Hasler (414242) on Tuesday February 21, 2006 @11:49PM (#14773810) Homepage
    If you mean "computers" say so. "Technology" is not a synonym for "computers". Hint: cooking is technology.
    • by kw87 (866701) on Wednesday February 22, 2006 @12:11AM (#14773935)
      I agree that computer != technology but I don't know that I would call cooking technology. To quote from Douglas Adams, "Another problem with the net is that it's still 'technology', and 'technology', as the computer scientist Bran Ferren memorably defined it, is 'stuff that doesn't work yet.' We no longer think of chairs as technology, we just think of them as chairs."
      • I agree that computer != technology but I don't know that I would call cooking technology.
        Technology [wikipedia.org]
      • by EmbeddedJanitor (597831) on Wednesday February 22, 2006 @02:26AM (#14774639)
        Technology encompasses everything we do to modify our environment/experience. This includes the clothes they're wearing, the house they live in and everything else. If you want to get kids to start thinking then introduce them to technology that they can readily understand,see working and experiment with. Computers hide too much of their inner workings and are pretty hopeless for teaching anything useful to young kids. Being able to boot a game and click a mouse is hardly tech-savviness.

        Cooking is a good introduction to experimentation and elementary chemistry etc. Lego for spatial & basic construction skills. Get a steam engine or a Stirling engine, some magnets,... Fix a bike, brew some ginger beer... Fly a kite, knit some socks... Just whatever you do, do something **real**, not virtual computer simulation crap.

    • what type of tools should parents be equipping their children with?
      "Technology" is not a synonym for "computers".
      Dang! I was going to say "weapons", but now I can't. Thanks for spoiling it, eh? ;-)
  • Tech toys for tots (Score:5, Interesting)

    by Announcer (816755) on Tuesday February 21, 2006 @11:50PM (#14773818) Homepage
    As the child gets older, and shows an aptitude for Technology, I would suggest some simple electronics project kits that are suitable for their age, and appeal to their interests.

    There are a number of kit manufactures, such as Ramsey Electronics and Velleman which make kits of all types and skill levels. Some of my fondest memories are of having my Dad help me build something. As I got older, I spent my allowance on kits.

    Today, I work in a radio station as a Broadcast Engineer. Computers and IT are important, naturally, but if a child shows interest in what's "under the hood", they will have an advantage over their peers who only see the computer as a "box" that runs programs.

    • by gatzke (2977) on Wednesday February 22, 2006 @12:10AM (#14773932) Homepage Journal

      My dad bought me a few of these as a kid but it never sunk in. I could follow the instructions and put something together, but I was frustrated that I never really understood what the complex circiuits were doing.

      Maybe I needed some more fundamentals, maybe I should have asked dad for some more help, maybe I didn't have the math for op-amps or whatever when I was 10. It did not come naturally and the environment was not right to help me really get it.

      Maybe the educational materials that go along with those kits are better now. The radio shack stuff from 25 years ago didn't help me much...
      • Yea these kits sucked as they didn't expect you to use any problem solving skills. Lucikly I was curious enough to take the existing plans and attempt to slowly modify them to figure out what each and every part did. I still never quite figured out the chip that was provided, though I had no understanding of gate logic at my time, thats probably something that would have helped! :)
      • by logpoacher (662865)
        Yup, I had exactly this problem - I was desperate to know about electronics, and although the kits made me familiar with soldering and components, I just couldn't figure out where to start understanding them. I could interpret the diagrams, but I couldn't infer the Purpose. I had a number of books, but they were either archaic (all about valves) or too low-level (semiconductor theory).

        And when I was a student, someone recommended Horowitz and Hill "The Art of Electronics" - and it was like a light going

    • I second this notion.

      When I was a kid, I had an electroincs kit that was basicly a box with all the components layed out on it and then springs attacked to all the lugs.
      You pushed a wire into the springs and connected circuts.

      There was also another kit that I had that had a blue board with a bunch of holes and you basicly used screws to hold the components in place (then you unscrewed them and put them away for later use). I still remember when I was using this kit as part of some extra-curricular electroni
  • We triplets(!) that are 5 years old, and we have elected not to try to push them into technology just yet. I figure that they will become interested in it just by watching my wife and I and their 12 year old brother playing with our own tech toys. My boy (the triplets are 2 girls, 1 boy) has recently started showing an interest in games, so I have showed him the basics of using the mouse and keyboard and turned him loose on some of the educational games that are available for Linux. The games in the kdeedu
  • Programming. (Score:4, Interesting)

    by SocialEngineer (673690) <invertedpanda@NoSPam.gmail.com> on Tuesday February 21, 2006 @11:51PM (#14773825) Homepage

    I first witnessed computer programming when I was 6 - A half brother coded a drawing program for me while I watched. 2 years later, I started taking my old 321 Contacts (GREAT magazine) and programming the Qbasic programs and games, and then modifying them.

    It just went up from there. If you can find a good magazine or something for kids that introduces them to programming, DO IT!

    • by Boronx (228853)
      Whoah, imagine what a whole brother could do.
  • by jpsowin (325530) on Tuesday February 21, 2006 @11:52PM (#14773835) Homepage
    what type of tools should parents be equipping their children with, today?

    Pencils, pens, paper. Printed books--good, old, classic books. They'll learn computers and all that--you can hardly do anything these days without using one. What they need are the basic skills they won't get through computers, and that is accomplished through reading good ol' books and writing.
    • by Shag (3737) on Wednesday February 22, 2006 @12:36AM (#14774078) Homepage
      Agreed. Along with, of course, all the other tools, including computers.

      Speaking as a parent of a first-grader, one of the big challenges is that kids make developmental steps in different areas, and they rarely do so in a synchronized way. So one month, a kid might be making a lot of headway in math-related areas, the next, in language, and the next, in social skills.

      And of course, you don't want them to get too far ahead in any one area, since a kid who's terribly advanced in math, but behind in social skills, will have a rough time in school.

      So... yes, my kid has a cheapish computer (Mac mini). And she knows how to do things like email grandma, play games, surf the web, feed it optical discs, etc. She also has (and reads, like there's no tomorrow) a lot of books. And supplies for writing and being artistic and making noise and doing the sort of messy "chemistry" kids like, and so on. And between my wife's social-science studies and my own work in natural sciences, her questions get answered.

      Which leads her to say things like, "but daddy, I already know what a supernova is!"

      Anyway, it's all a matter of balance. Give them the latest technology, yes - but only if you're willing to put just as much into the other aspects of life and learning.
      • And of course, you don't want them to get too far ahead in any one area, since a kid who's terribly advanced in math, but behind in social skills, will have a rough time in school.

        Funny... Yesterday someone had the T.V. tuned to CNN, and I heard about an upcoming report on "unschooling" [cnn.com]. I thought it was neat that unschooling made it through the corporate censors to appear on CNN... (the link is very on-topic, as in the piece several of the kids talked about using technology to educate themselves)

        Anyways,
    • by MrAndrews (456547) <mcm@NoSpAm.1889.ca> on Wednesday February 22, 2006 @12:36AM (#14774085) Homepage
      Indeed. I have two girls, both young, and they are both interested in computers. Our rule is that you can't use a computer to do things that crayons and paper do just as well: you read words on books, you write stories on paper, and you draw pictures in one of the hundreds paper pads stacked in the closet. Both kids have learned how to open iTunes and find the "Kids" playlist when they want to get their Raffi fix, and they use iSight for video chats to their grandparents, but otherwise they're entirely non-computer monkeys. I know that when they need to use computers, they'll already have the basic concepts mastered through osmosis. You don't want to raise technophobes, but you can't let them limit their existence to the online world so young... there's too much can't be reached with a mouse.
  • Perhaps a chainsaw and a nice table saw with sharp blades is great for kids to learn how to use tools
  • Tech for kids (Score:5, Interesting)

    by Spacejock (727523) on Tuesday February 21, 2006 @11:58PM (#14773859) Homepage
    A PC, networked but no internet, virtual CD (no scratched disks around here), lots of world-building games (Age of Empires, Sims, etc). An LCD screen instead of CRT. Print-to-PDF instead of direct to printer, so we can cancel 99 full colour pages of Pikachu and just print one.

    My kids spend time on their computers, but they spend a lot more time playing in the garden. They make their own dolls furniture (wood, nails, paint), miniature food (clay & paint), etc etc. The eldest taught herself to ride the unicycle. What I'm getting at is that they're not mindless blobs slaved to their PCs 24/7 - yes, they sometimes get heavily involved in a game and will play it in their spare time over 2 or 3 days, but then they'll avoid the computer for a week and do something else.

    The youngest is now 8 years old and produces her own digital art and newsletters, the eldest (11 yo) types up stories and homework. Both use an mp3 player on their computers, and because the music available to them is all my own favourites (mostly 70's and 80's), it's very interesting to see their tastes via their playlists. They're not exposed to modern rubbish on the radio, so I'm probably warping their minds and putting them forever out of touch with their friends.
  • Get them a computer and a game that they really like every once in a while. Just don't install the game for them. I learned a whole lot trying to get Commander Keen, A10 Tank Killer, and Populous 2 working on my computer.
    • Amen to that. TIE Fighter first taught me about emm386, and then later about multiple configuration config.sys files.
    • I was about to say "Your kidding right? Game installs are just require running the installer nowadays," but then I remembered the tons of times I have tried to play games with a not good enough video card. I guess you would be teaching them something about the economics of the game industry if they were forced to save up for the card to play the shiny new game you bought them, only for it to be outdated by the time they could afford it.
  • Synthesizers (Score:3, Interesting)

    by BoomTechnology (832547) on Tuesday February 21, 2006 @11:59PM (#14773869) Homepage
    Get the kid a real hardcore synth -- the kind that uses envelopes, oscillators, and filters etc with MIDI ports to boot. Got one in middle school and it taught me more about my major (EE) than you could possibly imagine...
  • Especially if you are involved in technology in some way, I don't think you'll have to do anything really special to push the idea of technology. The fact that it's all around them and that Mom and Dad use it will be enough to get them interested. I have two nieces, 10 and 16 years, and a nephew who graduated from Dartmouth last June with a CS degree. All of them are adept in their own ways with using computers without any special prodding. Of course, not every one wants to be or is cut out to be a tech
  • If you want to your daughter to be successful, don't focus so much on technology. Set as many play dates and social occasions for her as possible. Make her a star politician. That is the way to success in this world. After all, it's not what you know, it's who you know.

    If you don't feel comfortable with this line of action, then set her up with Vista, a screaming machine with no games, MS development tools, and entreprenuers who need business applications on a regular basis. That way she'll have many lucr

  • Start with one of the 7.2V keyless-chuck Makitas, or maybe a DeWalt. Useful when laying network cable down. A good toolbelt would be helpful as well. Now, depending upon whether she'll be building her own equipment, or buying commercial crap like Dells or HP/Compaqs, she may need a good set of Torx drivers. Needlenose pliers, vise-grips, a good range of screwdrivers would be wise, as well as a cable test rig. Then ...
  • by gatzke (2977)

    We already have a box of the new giant Legos for my 16 month son. Double the size of Duplos, they are called Quatro.

    Yeah, I know some turdburger will complain "thay are not Legos, they are Lego bricks." Whatever.

    The new mindstorms are awesome. Basic programming concepts and cool little robots. My son doesn't quite get it yet...

    I don't know if it helps much, but we also have a lot of musical instruments he has taken an interest in, like a old Casio keyboard and a harmonica. Not pushing, just letting him
  • At this age I do not think she will need a computer or many other tech toy alone for herself. Have it available, let her explore her world, and offer alternatives. Let her get her friends involved. If they want to learn how to work with a computer, then let them do it together. I think it is a pity that so many kids just consume games instead of writing them with friends. But, make sure that part of the time is spent on creative tasks, and that the time is limited so that she also spends time on doing other
  • by bennyp (809286) on Wednesday February 22, 2006 @12:11AM (#14773943) Homepage
    Tools for success in a modern technological world
    1. Critical Thinking
      The ability to think clearly, even amidst constant persuation is essential for mental and emotional equilibrium. A person must be able to distinguish honest messages from those with alterior motives. A person must also be able to take media with a grain of salt.

      One good way to teach critical thinking is to practise it with your child. Ask them questions about how media, especially advertising, makes them feel. Point out to them the tactics that media purveyors use to produce emotional responce.
    2. Awareness
      Make sure they know the difference between healthy and unhealthy fantasy. Make sure they have a clear and balanced view of reality by exposing them, little by little to the facts of inequality and injustice, but don't overwhelm them with the negative. History is also very important.

      As your child matures, involve them in your political, economic, and spiritual life. Take them to a political protest and explain why. Engage them in charity and volunteering, perhaps at a local food bank. They will learn humility and also see what it is like to be less prosperous.
    3. Self-Expression
      Teach your child to express themselves through a variety of means. Allow them to explore media on their own, but be there to guide them when they become frustrated or confused.

      It is important for a child to know how to properly express themselves. One great way to teach is to practise it yourself. Take your time when choosing words and sentences, and always be honest.
    4. Morality
      Pass on your own sense of morality to your child. Practice morality in front of your child in how you act towards others.

      Morals help us to act rightly, even when no one is watching. The internet provides a great deal of annonymity, and a strong moral sense serves as compass and shield.

    ...a few suggestions from someone who doesn't have it all right, but gets closer every day...

  • by Quirk (36086) on Wednesday February 22, 2006 @12:15AM (#14773960) Homepage Journal
    Spending time with your children learning new things and sharing with them the fun of learning is the best a parent can do. Handing their education off to their teachers won't have the visceral impact of them knowing their parents love to learn.

    As far as tech goes they'll be inundated from their earliest days although I'd work with them in bits :) and words to ensure they have a conceptual grasp of the how it is that computers work. Too often in education an assumption is made that everyone gets the basics then students are shunted up the ladder where often they can't grasp concepts because the basics learned by rote weren't fundamentaly understood.

  • by lheal (86013) <lheal1999 AT yahoo DOT com> on Wednesday February 22, 2006 @12:16AM (#14773965) Journal
    is you. Your time, your attention, and your approval. You appear to know all of that, but sometimes we get caught up in being good little consumers and buying "tools" when we should be focusing on the tool wielder.

    With kids aged 18, 15, and 14 I have some experience in this. I can view with 20/20 hindsight the mistakes I made and the triumphs, such as they were. Without exception my failures have involved taking my eyes off of them for just a little while.

    Play with them. Make them earn everything but love (and what you're required by law to give them). Don't be afraid to punish bad behavior. Don't reward tantrums, whining, or other manipulation, but do reward reasoned persistence.

    Reward honesty, so much that if the has a "cherry tree" moment, give praise and forget the misdeed. Punish dishonesty in every form.

    Punishment should fit the misdeed, and should be designed to benefit the family in the long run. Reserve corporal punishment for "you ain't the boss of me!". It will come. Whack 'em. They'll get over it.

    If you give them a computer, make it known that you can lock them out of it at your slightest whim.
    • The most important thing you can give a give a kid is a happy mom. Don't get so wrapped up in the kid that you stop treating your wife like a woman.

      Don't get divorced, unless there's blood. Divorce sucks.

      And if you do get divorced, don't remarry until the kids move out. Stepfamilies suck.


      • And if you do get divorced, don't remarry until the kids move out. Stepfamilies suck.

        That is such wrong advice that I don't even know where to start. Look, kids need solid parental role models in their lives. My ex lives almost 2,000 miles away, so she only sees the kids on long school breaks. Not that she was all that available as a mom before the divorce. Not really her fault, though. Her own childhood is the stuff that nightmares are made of. I just wish I'd known about her upbringing before I pr

  • If you can build a fort out of Lincoln Logs, you can build anything. If you had enough Lincoln Logs, you could build a pretty solid skyscraper that makes an Erector Set look puny. Sometimes the best technology solution to learn is low-tech instead of high-tech.
  • by SSID (956348)
    I myslef am married with a 2.5 year old daughter. I must proudly say that she uses a laptop very well for her age. Just this past weekend my wife set up her laptop with the kid websites like Dora the explorer and a few others. My daughter navigated her fun and games sites like a champ. Yeppers, going to be another geek in the family. My wife is the one that keeps her grounded in everything else. Like social stuff and that sort of thing. I guess we teach our child what each knows best. I would have to answe
  • Interesting: If it won't hold a kid's interest, then it'll be forgotten when the next toy comes along. The best way for a device to do this is to be re-usable in many ways. One specific game won't last for very long, no matter how good it is.


    Modular: This builds off the interest. The more modular a device is, the more ways it can be assembled and the more games the kid can make up as they go along. Later on, modular becomes good for developing experiments, trying to see what works, what doesn't, and what produces the Magic Blue Smoke.


    Fun: Intellectual interest is great, but it'll need to hold a high level of emotional interest, too - kids aren't known for having vast reservoirs of intellectual interest. Too few adults do, either, but that's beside the point. Besides, they can always become Talk Radio hosts.


    Some examples of what is good:


    • Lego Mindstorms or any other controllable electronic Lego systems
    • Mecchano / Erector Sets
    • K'Nex - you'd want to drive the motors via the computer


    Some examples of what would work for SOME kids, especially if older:


    • Great Egg Race Eggmobile
    • S-Deck or other solderless electronics kit, using the computer to supply an input or output
    • Computer-steerable telescope, where telescope eyepiece is rigged to a webcam with output to the computer. Put books giving an introduction to programming and an introduction to image processing next to the computer.


    Stuff that is useless:


    • Any single-function electronic toy
    • Any single-function computer project or kit
    • Anything where practical experimentation would be too hard (home-made sugar-based rockets might be a great occasional bit of fun, but I can think of no practical way they can do more than entertain until they're large enough to require special licenses - and even then, research would be extremely limited, for safety reasons)
    • Anything a furious or distracted kid could turn into an expensive repair project (transistors, capacitors, LEDs - these are dirt cheap, and it takes a fair amount to break lego or mecchano pieces)

  • by chris_eineke (634570) on Wednesday February 22, 2006 @12:19AM (#14773982) Homepage Journal
    what type of tools should parents be equipping their children with, today?

    Disclaimer: I am not a parent. Hell, I'm still half a kid myself (23).

    One of the most important things you can teach your kids is not to be just a consumer but a producer, too. Teach them that using a computer doesn't just mean to download software and watch flash animations, but that a computer - any computer - is a tool for self-expression.

    A computer is one of the most important tools of today. While it is a tool for the advertising department of company XYZ, it is also a tool express your thoughts (and dare I say it) dreams.

    The ultimative producer experience is, in my humble opinion, writing a good program. (Don Knuth is with me on that one.) Programming in the right language* is a delighful thing.

    That is what you should teach your kids.

    * LISP is a good candidate since it is extremely simple and powerful. These two things go hand in hand.
    • Bleah, people put too much emphasis on creation. Most real stuff is just rote and mindless. You should have your kids out picking cotton or removing weeds and rocks from the field. Not everyone can be a self-absorbed artiste with a portfolio of original drivel. Odds are your kids, despite whatever advantages you pretend to give them, will end up losers, just like everyone else you know, including yourself. Sure, you can attempt to build a fantasy world for them were what they do matters. You can also
    • Disclaimer: I *am* a parent (two boys (7 & 5), two girls (3 and 2).

      any computer - is a tool for self-expression.
      A computer is one of the most important tools of today.

      For a 7 year old boy, "self-expression" means jumping up and down on the couch yelling, "I am the Butt-Master! I will fart on you!" at the top of his lungs, and then laughing so hard with his 5 year old brother that he goes short of breath, staggers into the dresser and cracks his head so hard that he not only cuts his forehead, but knocks

  • What should you be doing to equip your daughter? Start reading to her. Get her coloring books, the picture books, and let her explore. Teach her that reading is fun.

    The key word in "technological literacy" is literacy. In today's world, exposing your child to technology is easy. It's all around us. But being able to read is the key skill in understanding it.

  • My dad introduced me to computers when I was 4. He hooked up an old TI-99/4A and we played Pole Position and Parsec and a few other less noteworthy games. Though I could not yet read and was not good at video games, I was fascinated by what was going on and how to get better at it. I was also intrigued at what all of those buttons on the keyboard could possibly be used for.

    I learned to read the next year and quickly picked up and analyzed all of the written words around me. I noticed that before I could get
  • Abstract: severely limit the tv, eBay a cheap laptop. Read, READ.

    It'll be hard (on you), but your first step is to step away from the TV. Set a hard and fast rule for how much video per day/week. Let's say, a half hour of video gaming per day, one hour of Sesame Street per day, one movie per week. MAX. Do these with her, do not fall into the trap of electronic babysitting. Better yet, no video gaming, period.

    Read to your child, and give her lots of opportunities to learn to read, and later read on her own.

  • Once you get them a nice high powered calculator, buy them the best math book you can find. Then tell them to practice every problem in the math book, when they complete the job, pay them an allowance or in video games, and repeat. Continue this process until they get to calculus, and then buy them a computer with open office so they can learn to write.

    What you do NOT want to do, is try to teach using the old fashioned tools of the past. USE the technology as an advantage and not a crutch, its all in how yo
  • How about instead of you "planning your daughters life", you let her do what she wishs? Guide her away from bad stuff and try to keep her on the right path, but let her be her own person. Remember this is slashdot and a lot of us are quite happy being anti social and being on our own. Your little girl will emulate her situation to some degree, but if you go "okay we introduce ball at point A, drop penguin at B and Atari at C", you're artifically influencing her.

    You're a geek so the toys are there to play wi
  • I was 6 when my dad bought me a BBC model B [wikipedia.org] in 1982 from the local Dixons [dixons.co.uk] for £399. I was 6. I played games for a while, and was subjected to Logo and the floor turtle at school, but then one day in 1984 I started thumbing through the BBC BASIC user guide [freeyellow.com] and tried the double height text program. It gave me the programming bug and the rest is history.

    While infinitely more powerful than the 6502 1Mhz Beeb, I don't think PCs give quite the same experience from a hands on learning point of view.
  • by mnemonic_ (164550) <jamec@nOspam.umich.edu> on Wednesday February 22, 2006 @12:51AM (#14774174) Homepage Journal
    I recommend getting her an SGI Tezro [sgi.com] workstation, while SGI's still around. She'll be awed by the stylish enclosure and rocksolid IRIX operating system running on an XFS foundation. As her pre-school colleagues grapple with color precision and flawed volumetrics, she will be smooth sailing by the smooth CFD visualizations on her scientific-grade machine. As SGI folds during her later years, she'll appreciate your foresight in giving her a piece of computing history. Don't be late; start her off on a real computer.
  • by Hosiah (849792) on Wednesday February 22, 2006 @12:57AM (#14774200)
    We seem to get some of these "kids and computers" questions every few months. We just had this one [slashdot.org] and there was this one [slashdot.org].

    Now, stop and think about the logic of this. First, you're asking a bunch of geeks for parenting advice. Only a few of us have kids. Next, you're asking the kind of question which doesn't provoke the kind of thought that would lend a helpful answer; doubtless you'll toddle off and go do whatever you felt like doing anyway, as you should do anyway. Finally, you're asking what you can do for someone so that by 16+ years from now, they'll be prepared.

    Now, if you were 18 today, what kind of insight would you have gained from your explorations of technology in 1990? Let's see, here: Cell phones would be lost on you. You'd probably have learned to type on an IBM Selectric. You'd have discovered Windows 3.0 running on a 386 PC or a Mac box. With the Windows box, you'd get as far as DOS and the QBasic language and hit the wall after that, and with the Mac you'd be drawing nifty black-and-white bitmaps and learning Hypercard. If you got to tour a workplace of the time on a school field trip, you'd get to learn about how computers are huge blue cabinets in special cold rooms with Halon dumps and running things like VMS. You'd get real handy at copying songs from the radio onto tape cassettes, or at least scoring on CDs if you were pink. Ipod's would never have entered your sphere...

    You see where it's going, now? There's almost nothing you can show your kids today that won't be landfill fodder by the time they're getting a job. As a last ditch effort to say I recommended something, I'd say give them Linux to play with, so at least they'd get to see a system that's geared to enable learning from the guts outward. As opposed to proprietary systems which are designed to keep you in the dark and hence dependent on "The Man" like a junkie scoring their fix, endlessly chasing the delusion that you can pay somebody else to do your learning for you. But by now, I suppose you're just sneering in contempt at the audacity to suggest such a thing, even though my kids have had no problem doing everything they want to do on a Linux box, and I'm OK with that, and I'll be OK with your kids working for my kids, too!

    At least some good has come of this exchange, this time. I've set the point in concrete once and for all so I can copy and save this reply in a file, the quicker to post the *NEXT* time we get this question.

  • One of the most aggregiously missing skills in the tech community is a notable inability to type. It's amazing the number of WPM that a master hunt-and-pecker can achieve, but my ability to crank out 105wpm has been one of my greatest assets as a programmer. It's always a good idea to reduce the noise to signal ratio, and pulling down the biggest UI obstacle out there will speed up the adoption of any technology, especially those computer related.

    Also, teach 'em to count to 31 on one hand. Get poker chip
  • Really, if it worked for you, than does newer technology have anything more to offer a kid?

    I've seen many POPULAR new toys: they're tacky, colourful, not particularly intellectually stimulating and just feature lots of things that will attract any kid (watch the Barney Show, if you don't already). In my opinion, lots of modern toys are patronising (technology is just as new to the parents as it is to the kids - in your day, you actually needed some skillz / dedication to setup a game/box - how many kids wit
    • agreed. I not to long ago sold our nintendo gamecube due to my oldest son's negative behaviour when he'd be playing it. Now, the console of choice in our house is an Atari 2600. Guess what, he and his brother (7 and 2) love the thing. I even can play with them and have some fun doing it... (joust, combat, checkers are all pretty good 2 player games). It's my vague, distant memory from childhood that when the atari first came out it was actually a family gaming system, not just from 16 year old males.

      p
  • what type of tools should parents be equipping their children with, today?

    The desire to learn. That's really it's all about. A lot of our generation fixates on computers because we grew up with them and learned everything we could about them. So which is more important, developmentaly? The computer, or the fact that we were so damned excited about it?

    Practically speaking, I think it's a matter of exposing them to things that they can almost understand, and then letting them explore. That and never dism
  • ...don't corrupt their minds with imperative programming languages. bring them up on a pure functional language like Haskell from a young age, say 4 or 5 years. Don't let them even hear of side effects until they're 18 and make sure they never hear about non-constant global variables until they're 21. That way there's chance they won't write the kind of crap that passes for code nowadays. And they'll be smart - very smart.
  • Computers are a tool. They are meant to empower. Don't try to bring up your kids in the stone age. By all means make their early experience varied - take them into the great outdoors - teach them to paint and colour. But why not also teach them photography, and photo editing on a computer, and word processing and all the rest. Children are sponges. They'll pick it all up and won't spend their childhood telling you they're bored.

    Computers are also great for simulating those things that are too dangerous to d
  • From the infant stage teach them sign language. As they develop language skills teach them letters and their sounds. From there teach them how to read. Introduce music and music theory and start them on an instrument. Throw in a second language. By first grade they'll be pretty advanced.
  • by typical (886006) on Wednesday February 22, 2006 @01:29AM (#14774358) Journal
    While I'm not a huge fan of immersing children in technology...

    I am. Dump 'em in a vat of PDAs and see what burbles up.
  • If anything your main influence on your kids will be applying brakes to their desire for every gadget in the Universe, because our markets are geared to program every kid to consume like crazy. It's even hard to say, "Well, what should I introduce my kid too?" because things are changing so fast. 5 years from now, who knows what the "indispensible" tool will be? You're kids will sure give you a large selection of things that they think are "indispensible".

    Get your daughter literate and get her reading

  • When I was a kid in the 70s, my parents were very enthusiastic in impregnating me with the technology that would later make me successful in life. They have really inspired my life and made my calling very clear early on in my life.

    However right now I'm out of a job. Anyone needs someone who's REALLY GOOD at punching COBOL programs on cards ?
  • My son got his first MP3 player at 11 months. It was a freebe from the cable company, and at 128meg, it wasn't worth it for me to carry it around. He was more than happy to listen to the same CD over and over. He loved it. At 20 months, he was wanting to play video games with me. Now at 23 months, when he asks to play video games, I get the unit down, and hand it to him to set up. He has no problem plugging everything into the tv, and turning the unit on.

    It is importnant to make sure the video game
  • recurring post (Score:3, Insightful)

    by cjsteele (27556) * <`coreyjsteele' `at' `yahoo.com'> on Wednesday February 22, 2006 @06:43AM (#14775326) Homepage
    This is the silliest recurring post I see on slashdot and here's why: what's the demographic of the average slashdot reader? late-teens to late twenties, male, geeky (but perhaps not in keeping with the dorky sterotype of our predicessors)? So, as a parent, you're going to ask THIS group of guys when you should do something that has potentially long-lasting impact on your child... riiiight. Speaking as the father of three, I won't do it. My kids are too special and too important to risk horsing up on account of taking the advice of a bunch of guys who know as much about children as they do about grammar.

    No offense, but the /. crew is the LAST group of people on earth I would turn to for advice on parenting.

    -C
  • by JoeD (12073) on Wednesday February 22, 2006 @11:12AM (#14776504) Homepage
    We have two kids. When our oldest was 2-ish, we set up an old non-networked machine with a Sesame Street game. At first, she'd pull us over to the computer when she wanted to play. We'd put the CD in and start the game up for her.

    Then we started to notice that she was playing the game, but neither of us had started it up. She'd figured out that she could click on the desktop icon and hit enter to start it up.

    We got a couple more games. She learned how to swap CDs, and which CD went with which game.

    When she was 3 and half, I gave her an old Logitech ClickSmart digital camera. It's great for kids. I configured the software to automatically download and delete the pictures from the camera, and showed her how to plug the cable in, and how to launch the photo album software. For two weeks, every time I turned around, it was "Surprise Daddy!" CLICK! FLASH! I had spots in my eyes constantly.

    She's now 4 and a half. She's been upgraded to a 700 Mhz Athlon. She goes to the Noggin website to play games, and has half a dozen or so games she likes to play. There's a link to Noggin on her desktop, and she knows which CD goes with which games, and can start them herself.

    The computer is just another toy to her. She still draws with her crayons and plays games and does all the usual kid stuff. But she will never be able to remember not knowing how to use a mouse. She's also getting good at framing stuff in the camera.

    Her old machine was inherited by her 2 year old little sister. We found a game that lets kids just pound on the keys. She seems to like it.

To err is human -- to blame it on a computer is even more so.

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