Parenting: Is computer time good for preschoolers?
February 17, 2011 (WPVI) -- My husband bought me an iPad for Christmas. I love it. But, it turns out, my 5-year-old son and 3-year-old daughter love it even more.
It took Luke a matter of minutes on Christmas morning to discover it has a car racing game app. Emma learned, after watching once, how to scroll through photos and make them bigger or smaller.
It is amazing how quickly young children learn to master nearly anything electronic. But is computer time really good for preschoolers?
Education experts say using a computer at such an early age has good and bad points. Your children will learn computer skills faster and may improve small motor skills. With a parent's help, a computer can provide access to lots of educational material. On the other hand, if your child is using a computer primarily for activities with little educational benefit, it is a waste of his time.
We've had a children's computer for about a year now. It has educational games that can help teach things like letter recognition while making it fun. Luke and Emma play with it on occasion. The American Association of Pediatrics strongly urges parents to generally limit all children's use of video and computer games to no more than 1 or 2 hours per day. I think, for preschoolers, about 20-30 minutes should be the limit. It the case of our children's computer, that's easy. With their limited attention span, they usually get bored within 15 minutes. But, Luke got a LeapPad Explorer for his fifth birthday that he has trouble putting down. Although programs do have some educational components, like math and spelling, the handheld device plays like a videogame. I have to set a kitchen timer to signal when computer time is up, so Luke doesn't try to play with it all day.
Experts say computers, used within limits, can be a fun teaching tool. But preschoolers need real-life experiences manipulating objects and interacting with other children and adults. As a parent, it is important not to use the computer as a babysitter and to supervise your child's computer time. Play along with them, ask questions and don't let it take the place of books and physical activity.
cecily tynan parenting reports, holidays, parenting, cecily tynan
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