Children & Computers: how much and when?
In our household, the adults are often on the computers: working, updating this website, paying bills, ordering groceries, coordinating playdates, researching dance classes, signing up for sports teams. So much of our day-to-day lives are facilitated by the use of the computer. So, when asked "Mom, can I get on the computer?" and I respond with "NO", I am not surprised to be met with conflict: "Why? You're always on the computer..."
My eldest daughter is nine going on ten. She recently received an evite for a classmate's birthday party. Had I not happened to let her get onto the computer on a random Saturday afternoon a couple of weeks ago, we would have not known about the party, as there were no paper invitations sent home and parents didn't get emails. It made me wonder: is it the norm now that all ten-year olds have email addresses that they check semi-regularly?
We set up an email address for our eldest maybe when she was 8. She checked it sporadically since then. More recently, though, with lots of her fifth grade friends graduating and heading to middle schools, she's been more active on the email. She also has been learning to use the internet, with increasing regularity, at school, for "research". She knows how to use Google and Wikipedia. And, apparently, students are not allowed to copy from Wikipedia verbatim to complete homework assignments.
I am curious how you have handled computer usage in your household. It seems that computer usage is a necessity, and I feel tasked with helping my children to learn to use the tool responsibly, instead of spending mindless hours "surfing" the web for nothing in particular. How do you guide them to use the computer purposefully, perhaps to do some research, to look up the weather for the week, to check email (how often?), to skype with out-of-town family members? What are reasonable time limits for usage for different age groups - preschoolers (if at all?), early elementary children, middle schoolers, high schoolers? I would especially love to hear from those more seasoned mamas (salty mamas, hehheh), who have been through this transition from no- to some-/lots- of computer time. What is your new balance with computer time for the kids?