Wednesday, November 14, 2012

At What Ages Are Gadgets Appropriate for Kids?

It's common for parents to reminisce about simpler times, when kids were turned loose outdoors every day to scrape their knees and play in the sun. Now, the overwhelming rush of technology from all sides has grown-ups stressed out and wondering when their children will be old enough to begin exploring the digital world. The answer is largely one of personal opinion, but many gadgets have kid-friendly features that may even promote learning and creativity.

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So long as time on web-enabled devices is monitored closely and more healthy ctivities are encouraged, a gradual introduction creates valuable familiarity in a world dominated by technical prowess.

Desktops and Laptops
Computers are tempting for children because they open so many doors. Unfortunately for parents, some of those doors must remain firmly shut for at least a few more years. Infants below the age of three gain almost nothing from computers and will have a hard time making sense of the screen. By third grade, however, children begin to receive assignments that require light research on the web and may be playing educational games in class. Targeted programs that emphasize developing skills have been shown to significantly improve learning in young children.

The larger concern, of course, is controlling what kids can find online. There are many different blocks available with varying degrees of strictness, ranging from unplugging the router to a more nuanced internet filter for older children. By not allowing unsupervised access to computers, parents can reap all the benefits of these platforms without risking the dangers.

MP3 Players
Music players have been wildly popular for well over a decade now, and are perhaps one of the most harmless gadgets for a child. So long as parents decide what goes on the playlist, there are few potential problems. Children should be old enough to avoid swallowing small parts and articulate enough to manipulate delicate controls. The biggest concern after those two is hearing damage, which can only be moderated by stressing reasonable volumes.

E-Readers and Tablets
E-readers and tablets often suffer from the same drawback computers do: internet access. Thankfully, they too have blocks available and are invaluable on long car rides or family vacations. Tablets store favorite games and creative applications, while e-readers are becoming more and more sophisticated and can now portray picture books so vividly that they seem like real ink and paper. E-readers allow kids to carry a small library with them everywhere they go and are one of the more constructive gadgets on the market for children older than five.

Video Games
Video games offer learning experiences in a fun package, though they are not as effective as once believed. Nonetheless, they are now an integral part of youth culture and at some point every child will play at least one electronic game. Not every video game is violent. In fact, there are plenty of games that focus on creative skills and helping others that are suitable for children aged four and over. By keeping an age-appropriate game library, parents can satisfy their children without worrying about early exposure to adult behavior and bloodshed.

Phones are, in some ways, a parent's best friend. They are a constant line of communication with a child, providing unprecedented access at all times. On the other hand, no one wants to see a seven-year-old with her nose pressed to the screen, driving up her family's monthly bill with never-ending texts to her friends. Starting with a basic phone that doesn't offer texting is a good practice once a child begins spending more time away from his or her parents. Privileges can be expanded as pre-teens and teenagers cultivate their social lives and develop a better sense of responsibility. Most parents feel comfortable enough to let their kids have access to a phone by age 13, but some get their first at as young as six or seven years old.

What about you? What do you think are the right ages for kids to have technology?


Sara Haslem works with Dell. When Sara isn’t working she enjoys spending time with her two kids in the outdoors, and preparing for her baby on the way. For more information on laptops, Sara recommends visiting Dell’s website