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A beginning is a very delicate place

By imrdkl in Technology
Mon Jan 21, 2002 at 02:33:32 PM EST
Tags: Software (all tags)

When I was a kid, we had B&W tv. There was no software to speak of, and what little interaction we had with computers was based on punch cards which we dutifully filled in and were then sent to some processing center.

Today, kids have a few more options... to say the least. Last weekend, I installed some Reader Rabbit Pre-K software that I bought during the holidays, and my kid (3 1/2 years old) started using my computer for the first time, instead of just coming into my office and dragging me away from it. He really seemed to enjoy it. I have to buy him a mouse that will let him maneuver and click easier, but that seemed to be the only thing in the way.

Awhile back, the other site had a short thread on childrens software and another one on ethically monitoring their activities online (not a big worry for me yet, but definitely interesting).

Does anyone feel like talking about the issues or making recommendations about your own personal experiences w.r.t. kids software, hardware, or even allowed usage?


Voxel dot net
o Managed Hosting
o VoxCAST Content Delivery
o Raw Infrastructure


A kid should start using the compter at
o 1-2 years old 29%
o 3-4 years old 25%
o 5-6 years old 22%
o older than that 13%
o never, they're evil (not the kid, the computer) 8%

Votes: 67
Results | Other Polls

Related Links
o punch cards
o processing center
o Reader Rabbit
o short thread
o another one
o Also by imrdkl

Display: Sort:
A beginning is a very delicate place | 29 comments (24 topical, 5 editorial, 0 hidden)
I wish I had started younger (3.66 / 3) (#1)
by zephc on Mon Jan 21, 2002 at 06:42:35 AM EST

I got my first computer at 6, but i wish i had been exposed to them earlier (born in 79, so my parents COULD have had an apple, but nooOOooo =] ) I learned a lot from that old C128, mostly how to take it apart, and put it back together =]

Kids and Technology (4.00 / 4) (#3)
by sypher on Mon Jan 21, 2002 at 07:29:55 AM EST

I started off with an Amstrad CPC 464 green screen cassette based system when i was about 12.

This was the time of the commodore 64 and the spectrum zx range, the atari 2600 was still going strong.

My feelings on these issues are simply to let the parents decide, I know that i want my kids to have a good primer to technology and that the internet and modern machines offer a lot more than just learning to use a system.

My wife on the other hand would probably rather the kids were outside playing.

My early start to technology has accentuated my knowledge and problem solving abilities, improved my hand-eye coordination and given me the opportunity to hold down a rewarding and interesting job.

Many of my contempories who did not have access or interest in IT as kids are now for the main employed in manual labour or uneventful roles.

This aspect is the one to watch as IT skills are invaluable today, imagine their worth when the kids hit the job market.

I dont think making a set of rules or recommendations would help kids, i think it would hinder them.

'Allowed usage' is something for the parent to decide, but I wouldnt want it to be a contraceptive on their organ of learning potential.

Just my 2c

I dreamt of it once, now I fear it dreams of me
The counter argument (4.50 / 2) (#7)
by wiredog on Mon Jan 21, 2002 at 08:47:02 AM EST

Vint Cerf. RMS. ESR. Larry Wall. Tim O'Reilly. The Woz. All people who didn't have computers to play with when they were kids.

Peoples Front To Reunite Gondwanaland: "Stop the Laurasian Separatist Movement!"
[ Parent ]
A fellow Amstrad user! (none / 0) (#13)
by czth on Mon Jan 21, 2002 at 10:51:51 AM EST

I started off with an Amstrad CPC 464 green screen cassette based system when i was about 12.

Tears almost came to my eyes when I read that... :> it's pretty rare to meet people that have even heard of the Amstrad, let alone used one. I also started out with a CPC 464 green screen / casette, at I guess around 7 years old (I know I was hacking machine code - no money for an assembler and no stores nearby - when I was 8); my Dad brought it home one day (later I learned he traded it for an early CD player; he got the better of that deal) when we were living in the UK. We upgraded to the CPC6128 / colour / disk a year or so? later.

The Amstrad was a fun machine. I probably have one of the few in North America now, though it's packed in a box, but we did run it for a while on a transformer. We got a whole stack of cassette games with the 464 (including most of the "Roland" series); the only disk ("disc" as they spelled it) game I bought was Sorcery+, and I think when I finally got an assembler (Maxam) it was on disk.

After you learn to write machine code in hex, though, nothing really fazes you from then on (no, I won't go on with the "we had to bang two rocks together to get ones and zeroes" deal :). Got a 386, wrote piles of x86 assembler, bought a C compiler (QuickC; I got it for the assembler, actually) from a guy I met in a bookstore, learned Turbo Pascal, got over that and learned C++, got into Unix, perl, makefiles, etc.

Now I'm working (in my copious free time) to write a version of 'Roland Takes a Running Jump' (an Amstrad game give in parts in the Amstrad Computer User magazine) for Win32; cheesy game but the level design aspect was neat.

Amstrad users of the world, unite :). New tech is great, but don't forget your roots.


[ Parent ]

Wow, Amstrad all the way (none / 0) (#16)
by sypher on Mon Jan 21, 2002 at 12:38:24 PM EST

Wow, So you were the other guy who bought one of these things?

Upon recollection, i was probably a while younger than 12 years old when i got mine. I got to thinking what came with it:

12 games of dubious quality

Roland does this, that and the other, plus the excellent HARRIER ATTACK!


Animal, vegetable, mineral was my fave though. I remade it later on the amiga and it was distributed as PD (public domain), the difference being the user could make their own multiple choice game.

the 464 rocked, but i didnt get into programming anytime much before i got my Amiga.

Maybe an old amiga would be a cool thing to let kids play with?

Proggies such as screamtracker et al are freeware in the main, plus much of the software isnt so feature heavy to cause confusion.

Is it just me, or was computing more fun in the days of the 16bits, without all the click through licences, email viruses and all the internet porn?

Just my 2 pence

I dreamt of it once, now I fear it dreams of me
[ Parent ]
[OT] Amstrad users of the world unite! Both of us! (none / 0) (#24)
by czth on Mon Jan 21, 2002 at 09:14:06 PM EST

Wow, So you were the other guy who bought one of these things?

Hehe :). Evidently. Though I knew another guy in the UK that had one. Neighbour down the road had a Speccy, though. I envied him 'coz when his games loaded the screen border went stripey, but when I got Beach Head it did that on the Amstrad, so I was content ;).

I never did play Harrier Attack, though I read about it in ACU I'm sure. I also had AVM and a bunch of the other Melbourne House educational games.

Have you tried any emulators? There are some pretty good ones, CPCEMU is one I think; I recall that one is a really good emulator but has crappy debugging (i.e. it can emulate the Sorcery+ frame flyback mode switch to get the split mode effect) whereas the other has a great debugger but can't handle Sorcery+ or some other games' effects.

Is it just me, or was computing more fun in the days of the 16bits, without all the click through licences, email viruses and all the internet porn?

Absolutely, old chap. When men were men and viruses were viruses (Stoned, Michaelangelo, Brain, Jerusalem, Tiny, etc.). As well as licenses, you have to put up with various companies (*cough* Microsoft *cough*) inventing a new technology with its own TLA every time you turn around (COM, ADO, Jet, MFC, ATL, WTL, .Net, VxD, DLL, ...). It was much simpler when you just needed two books (the Z80 reference manual and the firmware manual for BIOS calls...).

Sure, might be a good idea to give kids an Amiga or somesuch to mess around on, although they'll catch on that all their friends "have the Internet" sooner or later so might as well introduce them to it sooner so you can be the one to tell them about it, not third parties [I've never seen an Amiga. If they've had Internet connectivity since 1964 or somesuch, don't flame me :)]. My sisters are 9 and 10 and use the Internet a fair amount, the computer is in a family area, they know to be careful, not talk to strangers (or feed trolls (<G>)).

Well, it's nice to know I'm not the only one :). Take care.


[ Parent ]

Yes, another Amstrad user (none / 0) (#25)
by gregington on Mon Jan 21, 2002 at 10:18:51 PM EST

This does bring back memories!! I had a 464 when I was about 12 years old. I had a 3" external disk drive (what were they thinking when they used 3" disks instead of 3.5") and even had a 256K ram expansion. A couple of years later I got a modem (300bps and 1200/75 bps!!!) and was playing around on BBS's.

I had played around with computers for a couple of years before that, specifically, I remember going round to my friends' houses to use their C64's and TRS-80's and BBC Acorn's.

With exposure to programming at that age, most things in my Engineering degree (major in IT) came very easily. I remember a lot of students who had little or no exposure to programming before university found it difficult.

I think that my parents would have liked me to spend less time on the computer and do other things, but now the situation is revesed. I don't have a PC at home any more and have no intention of getting one in the neear future. I just don't want to play with them at home after having to use them for a living.

[ Parent ]

Monitoring (4.42 / 7) (#5)
by Ranieri on Mon Jan 21, 2002 at 08:24:49 AM EST

A lot of debate has focussed recently on preventing childeren from accessing certain sites or monitoring their behaviour online so the parents get a warning when their childeren have been accessing improper content. Instead of taking for granted the fact that the internet is full of "improper" content for childeren, let's try and classify it.

  • Pornography
    As i'm sure has been discussed before, no amount of online filtering can keep a horny teenager away from his "pr0n". There are obvious alternatives to online porn such as printed material. Before the advent of the internet young males typically possessed stacks of adult magazines kept in a "safe" place. I presume their place is now slowly being taken by movie CD-ROMs downloaded at a friends house using KaZaa or similar, or even DVDs.
    Porn is an integral part of being a male teenager, no amount of filtering can change that.

  • Nazi propaganda
    If your kid joins a skinhead group it's not the fault of the internet. It might be comforting for the parent to blame the new medium, and it surely makes for interesting taglines on Oprah. But we all know where the real responsibilities lie.

  • Bomb making instructions
    There probably isn't a BBS user alive that didnt at least see a copy of the "anarchist's cookbook". Yet most of us became reasonably stable persons. The sane way of approaching this is not to try and keep your kid away from bomb making instructions, but to teach him/her that hurting people is wrong.
    Most kids have a pyromanic streak. That can be vented by letting them light the campfire/barbecue and giving them a good supply of firecrackers for new year's eve.

  • Hacking
    Afraid your kid is going to turn into an 3r337 s00p3r h4qr after reading all that information on the internet? You might be right. But if he does, it is certainly not thanks to the "haqr" pages that get filtered by the netnanny. It's thanks to curiosity and intellect. And we all know that your filter isnt going to stop a curious and bright individual for long don't we?

All in all, it would seem the internet is not the big bad place that it's often made out to be. Bad things happen on the internet, just as they happen down the street. It's your job as a parent to guide your child on the internet, as well as in the real world.
Taste cold steel, feeble cannon restraint rope!
Anarchist's Cookbook (4.66 / 3) (#6)
by wiredog on Mon Jan 21, 2002 at 08:40:02 AM EST

I have that one in dead tree format. Warning, do not use the pipe (and other) bomb recipies from that book. There are some important safety tips it leaves out, as do most of the recipies on the net. Every once in a while some idiot kid blows his own hands off playing around with recipies from that book.

Peoples Front To Reunite Gondwanaland: "Stop the Laurasian Separatist Movement!"
[ Parent ]
Not just pipe bombs (3.33 / 3) (#9)
by AmberEyes on Mon Jan 21, 2002 at 09:39:12 AM EST

90% of the explosive ordinance instructions in that book either don't work, or explode in your hands if you're lucky -- in your face if you aren't.

Same with the internet stuff, like you said. Most is garbage. Having the opportunities to read over both types of instruction sets, I can only plead to anyone who is thinking about doing it "please don't do this", and if that fails, then, "have a friend standing some distance back with a phone to call 911". The stuff is highly dangerous, especially in the abridged format that they present it in.

Again, I warn ye who may be toying with the idea of replicating any of the stuff in the Anarchist's Cookbook -- do not muck about with it.


"But you [AmberEyes] have never admitted defeat your entire life, so why should you start now. It seems the only perfect human being since Jesus Christ himself is in our presence." -my Uncle Dean
[ Parent ]
I tried to fix it... (3.00 / 2) (#11)
by The Amazing Idiot on Mon Jan 21, 2002 at 10:24:40 AM EST

I don't know how we got to a certain conversation in class. A group of us students in an AP chem class (back in HS) was talking about the anarchists cookbook. We were also discussing, and demonstrated thermite. I said that I've read the 'cookbook' on the net, and the chemistry doesn't work out. but her response was for me to actually fix as much as I could. However the administration heard of this... That little class project was cancelled.

uhh... The Amazing Idiot

[ Parent ]
The difference between Internet and regular porn (4.33 / 3) (#19)
by skim123 on Mon Jan 21, 2002 at 01:22:07 PM EST

Having spent my early teenage years before the World Wide Web was well known, I, along with most of my friends, each had a stack of Penthouses, Playboys, Hustlers, etc. that we had gotten from an older sibling, lifted off of Dad's collection, or borrowed from a friend. Yes, that is normal, and I, as a parent, would not go to lengths to try to block such material from my teenage child because, as you said, they are going to get it one way or another.

I do, however, think that there should be an attempt to block Internet porn. The soft porn, fine, that can come through all right, but there is some very hard core porn on the Internet that teenage boys are not going to be able to get in magazine form. If you'll recall a /. story about worst technical jobs, one of the worst jobs was serving as a screener for a company that creates NetNanny-like services. The workers, whose job it was to find questionable/offensive sites, had a "bad job" b/c they had to look at very offensive adult material all day - like scat; like torture; like snuff; like bestiality.

While I'm sure magazine equivalents of these exist, finding them is (I'd assume) much harder. The 7-11 doesn't have any issues of Scat World behind the counter; Ted's dad down the street probably doesn't have a collection of Bestiality World mags in the back of his closet. However, such material can be found readily on the Internet.

I'm not for trying to hide these things from my children; it's ok for them to eventually know they exist, and, hell, if they like that sort of stuff and all the parties envolved are consenting, they can do it to their heart's content. But I think as a responsible parent it would be my job to shield them from such extreme pornography while they were still children/teenagers and, regardless of consent or their sexual likes, god dammit, there's not going to be any scat parties in my house while they're living under my roof. :-)

Money is in some respects like fire; it is a very excellent servant but a terrible master.
PT Barnum

[ Parent ]
Soft-core magazines == good? (4.00 / 1) (#22)
by skunk on Mon Jan 21, 2002 at 06:18:14 PM EST

A thought...

Perhaps the day will come that Playboy magazines become parent-endorsed material, to distract kids from venturing into harder-core stuff (like Hustler and certain Internet porn). Can you imagine Dad and Junior getting together, Dad opening his magazine to the centerfold, and saying, "Son, there's a reason why this picture looks very interesting...."

(I say Playboy specifically, because in the greater scheme of things, it's practically G-rated porn. The fact that it has actual, intelligently-written articles doesn't hurt either)

I have to nod agreement to your approach, including the "no Scat World in this house!" bit. To that I would add proactive discussion---let 'em know beforehand about what kinds of unwholesome things are out there, even show them some (less-traumatizing) examples so their curiosity doesn't flare out of control. And even more than just focusing on the "bad" things, teach them not to trust everything they read (Nazi revisionists and CNN alike), good searching skills, the instant home-page keystroke in case they load up goatse.cx, etc. Basically, equip them with everything they need to know. In every discussion on this topic (kids/Web/NetNanny/etc.), I've come away feeling that withholding information is often the worst possible thing one can do.

Aside: While I myself don't care much for most porn sites (Sturgeon's Law was never truer), I'm at least a little happy that their incredible prevalence is forcing U.S. society to confront some of its longstanding hangups on human sexuality. Not that this has been all for the good---witness CDA and the like---but if it means more parents will talk to their kids openly about the birds/bees/boobs, then more power to 'em.

[ Parent ]
What are you saying? (none / 0) (#28)
by epepke on Fri Jan 25, 2002 at 01:21:31 PM EST

I have to nod agreement to your approach, including the "no Scat World in this house!" bit.

I'm not sure whether you're saying that you want Scat World to become enticing as Forbidden Fruit or that you think that it wouldn't make it enticing. Honestly, I think that the South Park movie had it just right. Is a kid who isn't a product of a scatological culture (like Germany) or a urination culture (like France) and who hasn't had overly traumatic toilet training going to be interested in that? I doubt it.

The truth may be out there, but lies are inside your head.--Terry Pratchett

[ Parent ]
Getting to know computers is essential (3.66 / 3) (#14)
by zenit on Mon Jan 21, 2002 at 11:06:21 AM EST

It doesn't take much time for a kid (three-four years) to get the hang of using a computer. There is the mouse, the keyboard, icons, menus, etc. Those things are essential to master.

In contrast, look at many grown-ups who have never used a computer until the last couple of years. They memorize exactly how to do things, without regard to the principles behind: To print, click on the printer button. Even if they see there is a "Print" entry on the "File" menu, they don't dare trying it -- it might be dangerous!

Sadly, I've seen people get hopelessly lost in a word processor not looking exactly like MS Word. When you know the principles behind the user interface, you'll have no problems adjusting to different applications. Let your kid experiment with the computer, don't teach him to be afraid of it.

And dont forget! Using a computer is OK. Using it 8 hours a day is not. Play with your child, read for him, spend time outdoors. I still enjoy Lego ;-)

woo (3.66 / 3) (#15)
by rebelcool on Mon Jan 21, 2002 at 11:21:02 AM EST

We got our first system when i was 9 or so (an early model 386..I still have it and it works fine)

Of course this was before we would even consider getting a modem (whats a bbs? all those other services are too expensive...) so I spent much of my time playing around with paintbrush and other art programs (kids LOVE those..good for the creativity too and teaches good usage of the mouse)

Once I was about 11 or so I discovered QBasic and had a blast with that. Your kid's a bit young to get started even on simple programming languages, but in a few years, something similar to basic or LOGO or whatever they use today thats easy will be good. Unfortunately I fear that kids will have gotten so used to the GUI interface that they'd be bored with what were fascinating things like blinking text prompts :(

My parents used to keep the machine in a public area of house, like in the living room. Such things tend to discourage naughtiness while on the computer.

COG. Build your own community. Free, easy, powerful. Demo site

Can't generalize (4.25 / 4) (#17)
by psicE on Mon Jan 21, 2002 at 01:03:27 PM EST

My first computer was a Zenith 8086, at age 3. All it had was DOS and DOS programs; no GUI at all. In fact, all I can remember being able to do with it was explore DOS, type documents with WordStar, and play Zork and Lemmings with my father. Later, my father bought a 286 Toshiba laptop, again with no GUI, but with terminal software and a Delphi account. Even though Windows had been out long before then, I learned how to use a computer solely through the command-line. A few years later my father bought a 486 laptop with Windows 3.1, and then a Pentium 150 desktop with Windows 95; he knew no more than I did about how to use it. We both experimented with Windows, finding out everything it could do, and before long I was fluent enough in it to install Windows from scratch and troubleshoot any problems we had with Windows. I was 10 at the time.

Now, you could look at that and say, every 3-year-old should be using computers with a command prompt, and should be able to understand it. But, everybody learns in different ways, at different rates. Some people, like myself, naturally take to computers; I do think that I'd have the same interest and skill in computers if I had only found out about them at a later age, and I think that many the computer-hating people I know would still hate computers if they had been introduced to them at a very young age. If your kid seems to like computers, help him along with discovering more about them; if he doesn't, don't push him into using them more.

Younger kids will generally just use whatever programs you've showed them, or whatever programs they've discovered (i.e. solitaire). Once they get older, and use the Internet more, they'll inevitably want to go to "naughty" sites; porn, hacking, etc. First, never use any automatic filtering software, or an ISP that filters automatically. The way these filters work, inevitably some good sites will be blocked and some "bad" sites won't. Second, from my experience, the surest way to get a kid to want to go to porn, hacking, etc. sites is by not allowing them to see them at all. Don't go telling your kid outright that porn is good (that will probably scare him), but don't tell him that you'll ground him for a month (or punish him at all) if you ever catch him looking at porn, either. In my opinion, the safest thing to do is to assume that your kid, when a teenager, will go to "bad" websites when you're not looking, and to live with that.

The same logic applies for limits on computer usage. While a 3 year old won't want to spend very much time at once using a computer anyway, make sure that any limits you set when he grows up be mutually agreed upon, and that you make it clear to him that you don't want him on the computer for 8 hours at a time because it's bad for his physical and mental health, not because you want to punish him. Therefore, if your kid ends up doing sports for 3 hours every day after school, and comes home to go on the computer but spends 5 hours on the internet reading foreign newspapers (and still gets his homework done), you have nothing to worry about. If, on the other hand, your kid comes straight home from school, forgets about his homework, and plays Quake online until midnight, some limits would be a good idea.

Computers vs. child psychology (4.75 / 4) (#18)
by Sunir on Mon Jan 21, 2002 at 01:05:55 PM EST

I'd look up the links for you, but I'm on my lunch break. So, I'm going to handwave, if that's alright with you.

Very young infants are fairly incapable of learning much from a computer. First, they have trouble seeing the monitor, let alone the mouse cursor. Second, they have trouble with cause-effect relationships in the real world. Third, they have to connect mouse movement to action on screen--a very abstract notion. Fourth, they must have the coordination to "point-and-click."

Ok, that's partially solvable with a parent involved, but at a very young age, the infant is hardwired to learn by interacting with people with familiar games like "peekaboo." It's harder (if not impossible) to learn empathy from a cartoon caricture of a face compared to a real human face, and that's what's really important at this age.

So, in my uninformed opinion, stick to traditional play. It's worked for eons. It'll work now. I think starting kids on computers after they're used to reading is not a bad time to start. It won't take them long to figure things out. And if they can read, they might learn how to make use of it.

But don't forget to teach them how to use a library either.

"Look! You're free! Go, and be free!" and everyone hated it for that. --r

Perhaps later (none / 0) (#21)
by imrdkl on Mon Jan 21, 2002 at 05:14:14 PM EST

if you had some more time, you could expound further, or quantify perhaps, as to what is your definition of an "infants" age. Note the poll results, also.

At 3, my kid got the mouse-screen thing ok pretty fast, and he's never played video games. In the poll, folks are recommending starting even younger than that... although the actual experience is less discussed than the personal experience, so far.

I dunno how many of the responders actually have children of their own, although I did see an k5 age poll recently.

Otherwise, thanks for the handwaving, is was insightful without links, even if there seems to be some disagreement.

[ Parent ]

Mmmmm... nostalgia (4.00 / 2) (#20)
by bunsen on Mon Jan 21, 2002 at 05:11:05 PM EST

Ahh, kids and computers... Takes me back to the old TI-99/4A days. I'm not sure how old I was when we got that computer, but I do know that I had to ask my older brother how to spell keywords in TI-BASIC. I think messing around with that probably helped develop my logic and problem solving skills quite a bit. But then hours and hours of MunchMan probably undid all of it. :)

I recommend getting in some exposure to a command prompt, and probably a simple programming language like BASIC. I think programming is great for kids - it develops important skills, and lets them get to know the computer on a much lower level than other activities. Of course, that'll have to wait until the kid knows what those lines on the keys mean. :)

Do you want your possessions identified? [ynq] (n)

Kidz & compz (5.00 / 2) (#23)
by MalTheElder on Mon Jan 21, 2002 at 08:28:26 PM EST

I started on an IBM mainframe at age 17 with Fortran IV, right after punch cards started to replace hard-wiring, then years later to my TI 99, then my C64 (which got me through 10 years of college and grad school), then a series of PC clones runnning Win 3.1, Win9x and thence to Linux. I've been M$ free for half-a-decade now.

My son was introduced to the Win 3.1 PC at @ 18 months---he was curious. I fired up Paint, full-screened it, and showed him that the mouse moves the little arrow, and that clicking the mouse was cool, then turned him loose. Came back a little later, and he had randomly point'n'clicked his way into the File Manager, pulled the File menu down, and was poised to unwittingly delete the whole damn hard drive. I intervened :-) He really didn't develop a lot of interest in the box for another year or so after that, though he did like to draw.

Now 12, he casually wipes and reinstalls his ever-changing Win & Linux installs off his box (my old 200mhz PC), depending on what he wants to do with it this week, is fairly comfortable with the CLI, and is totally at ease with whatever GUI is onscreen. He uses the machine equally well for 'Netting, gaming, and productive work. Lately he's been curious about coding, as he is talking about trying to do Linux games. Does this mean I'll have to try to learn C++? Argggghhhhhh....I'm just too old!

Basically, he doesn't think in terms of which word processor, GUI, graphics prog, or whatever---he thinks (as I do) in terms of tools. Let's face it, if you can use one word processor, etc., you can use them all.

pr0n? He is not thrilled at the rare bit of pr0n spam that gets through the email filters (and yes, he IS increasingly aware of girls). He's even called me over to let me know about some that I missed during my occasional file checks. I don't even think about using net filters---instead, we have had a few frank discussions about pr0n, the Net, and our particular beliefs and values. My box---our connection to the outside---is a Linux box, and I keep logs of his travels. He knows it, and I change my root passwork at random, though more for drill, as he's never tried to crack it. That, and he hasn't really tackled sys admin stuff yet, so I'm probably safe for a while longer :-)

So, when should kids start using the computer? As soon as they show any interest, and only as much as they want. Not everyone is a born geek, though indeed in this society one needs to grow up thinking of the computer as another comfortable toolkit. You are the monitor and teacher. And don't make it a big deal---they're growing up with the box as a familiar household object the same way most of us grew up with TV and phones in the house---just another part of everyday.

Closing mouth firmly,

If you let them, they will come (none / 0) (#26)
by scanman on Mon Jan 21, 2002 at 10:41:04 PM EST

I recommend waiting for your child to show interest in the computer, rather than cramming it down their throat. If you have one lying around, or can afford a new one, it's good for the kid to have their own computer. Leave plenty of good reading within easy reach. (Of course, you must first teach them how to read.) Leave plenty of software CDs in easy reach too, be sure to include Linux, games, compilers, etc. Show the kid a few things, and if he's born to be a hacker, he'll take off. If not, don't force it, you will only make it worse.

"[You are] a narrow-minded moron [and] a complete loser." - David Quartz
"scanman: The moron." - ucblockhead
"I prefer the term 'lifeskills impaired'" - Inoshiro

I'm of two minds on this (5.00 / 2) (#27)
by TON on Tue Jan 22, 2002 at 01:02:56 PM EST

Just my personal experience, for what it may be worth.

My Dad worked for GE as a programmer, and then manger and consultant. I got my first taste of computers when he lugged home a teletype with a cradle modem the size of a large suitcase. He did work on the weekend sometimes. I got to play Trek. I was a kid, maybe 8, this was mid 70's. This was a lot of fun with my Dad.

One of my friends got a Vic20. That was fun, until he broke it. Later, I really wanted an Apple. Despite, or more likely because he was a computer professional, my Dad refused to have a computer in the home. He just didn't believe people needed them for anything. I was so frustrated at the time, but maybe he was right. There really wasn't all that compelling reason to have a computer at that time for most people.

The first computer I did get was a Mac SE, when I was in college. That machine did everything I needed it to. Perhaps the lack of arcade type games compared to the PC helped me get more work done too. Ironically, I gave that machine to my Dad when I got a new one. He used it to play chess and do a little word-processing until fairly recently.

Unfortunately, the Mac doesn't teach you much about computers themselves. The few stabs at Basic programming I'd done on that teletype were long ago and didn't fit with the closed Apple world. Programming a Mac was not accessible to most at that time.

Now, when I really feel the need/desire to manipulate computers more directly, I wonder what I missed out on. Not too much, I suspect. Perhaps I didn't internalize assembler, but there is more life and to computing.

I guess I would say you have to examine what you want your child to get out of computers. Togetherness with Dad? Well, just keep sharing your machine from time to time. Researching for school/personal knowledge? Any machine and a browser(in a few years). Really learning about computing? Computers model real problems from the world; gotta get away from the keyboard and out in the world first.

So, sometimes I wonder where I would be in the IT world, if I had geeked out a bit more, or had a machine a bit younger. OTOH, I might not have travelled the world, enjoyed as much music, or read as many books. I guess just be aware of the trade-offs; life is short, and childhood shorter.

"First, I am born. Then, the trouble begins." -- Schizopolis


Computers are a pretty boring kids toy (none / 0) (#29)
by MVpll on Tue Jan 29, 2002 at 09:43:28 AM EST

My three year old daughter would much rather spend hours in her sand pit then thirty minutes on the computer.

She gets the tactile experience of the sand, (and the washing/brushing off at the end), she has her brightly coloured toys, her own supplied sound effects and she can use all these to interact pretty much however she likes.

The computer has virtually nil tactile experience, the bright colours, repetitive sound effects and a very limited set of interactions, are only intersting for the first few minutes, after that...boring.

Also, the things she finds most interesting on the computer are those which are recognised from previous real world interations.

A beginning is a very delicate place | 29 comments (24 topical, 5 editorial, 0 hidden)
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