A child’s first laptop

Kids & Computers 81Photo credit: Anissa Thompson

My daughter loves computers. It’s no wonder, since I spend a fair amount of time blogging, taking online classes, emailing, working, and researching. But I have to confess that I’m a bit stingy with my computer. She wants to play PBSKids.org games, or she wants to “type” on Word. I’m not really good with sharing. Plus, if she’s quietly playing a game, what better time for me to write a blog post or finish up a client’s project?

When is too soon to give a child her own computer? I decided that 5 was a reasonable age in our case. My old laptop was getting, well, old. Some of the keys are faded, the memory is pretty full, and it’s too heavy to lug around to coffee shops that often. On top of that, it gets hot pretty quickly (though thankfully it doesn’t overheat since I bought a nice cooling pad).

I recently took the plunge and bought a brand new laptop for me. It’s much lighter than the old one, it comes with Windows 7 (it’s always good to learn a new operating system), and I have no problem carrying it around. My daughter gets to use my old laptop. Even though I wasn’t sure I should do it, it’s been a welcome addition to our household.

The only problem I didn’t foresee was where she’d use the computer. Even at 5, she knows how to go online, so I need to be nearby to monitor her computer usage.

All in all, we love having two computers. When I’m working, my daughter can do her “work” too. And I love that she’s learning while having fun, since there are a lot of great websites for children.

Does your child have her own computer? At what age do you think it’s appropriate for a child to have their own computer (if ever)?

53 Responses to “A child’s first laptop”

  1. Good article, and I have to say that I think that all kids are different and have different interests. Some show no interest in getting on the computer, but mine certainly do and I’ve seen nothing but benefits. As long as they are monitored and of course balanced with plenty other “off computer” time and activities. My children began playing learning games as early as four and as a result, they, now 9 and 6 are very skilled at not only navigating but understanding technology terms they would otherwise be clueless about. 21st century skills are mandatory for anyone wanting to compete and succeed so i think it’s all good, especially if your child is interested and enjoys his or her time online and most importantly, it learning from that time.

    • Theda K. says:

      Hey Charmaine, I completely agree about having 21st century skills. I’m also amazed at how quickly kids figure things out when given a chance. I haven’t formally taught her how to point and click or drag, and I’m just now getting around to using the proper terms (like icon, minimize, etc.), but she’s figured out most of it on her own. And the games these days do a great job of teaching those skills. The monitoring thing is no joke, though. I turned my head for a minute and she was on YouTube looking for Disney videos and wound up with seeing an inappropriate (violent) video of Bart Simpson shooting Barney. All because she knew how to use Google to search for her favorite terms, and because YouTube has pictures of videos. You understand. No more web searching without my close monitoring from now on!

  2. Mia says:

    This is an interesting subject, how early is too early to use the pc?
    Hm..i would say that 5 is too early, but taking into account that most kids know how to use the pc, I think it wouldn’t hurt to learn to write or play on the laptop, as long as you limit the no. of hours spent in front of the PC.

  3. Clotilde M. says:

    A child will be best at what they learn to do earliest in life! I was taught several things when I was round about 6 or 7 (two languages, crochet, art)I’ve known people who learned them older and always complain that they are not as good at it as they wish they could be.
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  4. Kids today just get to know about computers too soon, 5 seem quite reasonable to me, because my 2-year-old nephew is now typing on his father’s keyboard….

  5. Computers today are not the ‘special equipment’ that they once were. Nowadays they’re just everyday tools. Children are exposed to computers from a very early age and I think understanding how to get the most from this tool is pretty much up there along with understanding how to read and how to count. Given that computers are an expensive tool it’s a good idea to give an old one to your young child, just as you did. But I can’t see anything wrong with the idea of her having her own computer. After all she has her own bed and probably her own chair. Working out the rules for using it will probably be a greater challenge. But isn’t it better that she learns the rules early rather than later anyway. I reckon it’s a great idea to give your five year old your old computer.

  6. Back when my kids were small, they had a similar learning tool that hooked into the television, just like a video game. My kids really enjoyed playing games on it, and I think that it really did help them with pre-school type learning. I used to enjoy shopping in stores like Zany Brainy, where they focused on children’s learning tools. But, I don’t even think the chain exists anymore.

  7. Hmmm! This computer age. We have to be updated when it comes to learning tools. With the help and supervision from parents or teachers. Possibly, computers and other multimedia devices are great early stimulation for preschool kids.

  8. My parents bought me a computer (we’re going back a long time here when floppy disks were king and a computer took about 20 minutes to load anything) when I was 6 or so. They thought it would help improve my co-ordination. They were the ones who bought the games for it and made sure I wasn’t on it for too long.

    Obviously back then the internet wasn’t widespread, but even so I’d say 5 is an OK age. Kids can learn a lot from using computers and computer software, as long as you make sure they don’t stay on there too long and shy away from real social interaction. If they’re desperate to start exploring the internet, just make sure you install the necessary parental controls and supervise them. I think it’s great that your daughter is taking such an interest as well.

  9. Jean says:

    its so obvious nowadays that most of the children knows how to operate laptop

  10. I hate this age…when I was a kid I didn’t have laptops but I survived. Kids are more prone to danger now that we have this high technology.

  11. Computers have become such an important part of our world right now that making sure our children are familiar with them is just as important as making sure they can spell, or do math. In fact, if they know how to use a computer, they don’t even have to be the best speller or mathematician because the computer can correct any shortcomings! Vital for kids to learn to use computers in today’s world, but, of course, it has to be done like all other things parents teach in a well supervised manner.

  12. I think as long as they are monitored and of course balanced with plenty other “off computer” time and activities.
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  13. Redline says:

    It’s a different story in my case because my 7 year-son is using my computer for playing online games instead of opening educational sites. So,sometimes we really need to guide them in using computers so that they will not be mislead.

  14. Interesting! We are now on a generation of hi-tech gadgets. It is but a nice idea that as early as possible our child are expose to some of this facilities for it can help in the future if they handle a more improved one. But of course it should come with the proper supervision and guidance and parents should take responsibility towards this matter. There are some sites that are not suited for children that instead of our target of an improved personally and skill gained through the use of computer, it might pollute and destroy their young minds.

  15. Kids at an early age were exposed to computers and gadgets that is why, we shouldn’t wonder why they know a lot about on how to use it.

    Alexis 🙂
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  16. In past years when child was born the friends and relatives gave present to the child like gold rings, chains, teddy bears etc.. but now its a time of i phone’s and laptops so the friends and relatives must change their tendency.Its a tech world.

  17. Seo Calgary says:

    A computer or laptop has always been imperative to anybody, young or old. An important role of parents’ to their children is to repeatedly teach them with the knowledge and skills that they may need to face the world. When teaching, parents need to remember that children can learn best with repetition. Repeating the same set of games or some educational stuff over and over again would allow children to memorize the concept faster. When children realize that they are starting to figure out the answers, they begin to gain confidence. This way, by teaching children, parents do not only make learning more fun but they can also create another opportunity to bond with their child.

  18. I also think that 5 is the best age for kids to start learning about computers, web and all that tech stuff! It’s very good for their IQ!
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  19. My daughter who is only 3 years old already knows how to operate a computer and likes using mine. I find it scary though that its too early for her to be exposed to too much computer after all there’s radiation to consider but it is really hard to not let them operate it.
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  20. A childs first computer should be a netbook. I’s light, cheap and almost the same as a laptop. Kid’s shouldn’t need a computer until they are old enough to understand its basic functions.

  21. sidashru says:

    A child will be best at what they learn to do earliest in life!
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  22. As long as there’s a supervision of parents, children at early age can use computers. It’s a good start for kids to learn more and develop their skills as well. But parents should set a schedule for kids in using the computer so that they will be disciplined at young age.

  23. It’s a nice idea if we teach our children how to manipulate computer at their early age. This technology can give them knowledge about the things that they haven’t learned yet. Because, most children have so many questions in mind or curiosities that wanted to have an answer, and computer is the easiest and fastest way to give them an immediate response. But then we should limit the time of exposure of our children in front of a computer. And I think it would be better if we guide them while they are in learning stage.

  24. Learning is great! Moreover if it’s process starts at an early age. But with this case, still considerable but you have to put restrictions to the computer of your daughter so that she will just learn things according to her age. Also, help your child to develop discipline between important things and some leisure in life. The good thing with your disposition is that you guide her or shall I say, you keep on watching her exploration with her computer.

  25. Engaging our children in computer at early age is good but sometimes is brings up some dis advantages like learning things that are not good for children. Computer oriented children has great potential in surfing and acquiring new learnings trough internet. But adult’s supervision is greatly needed to an effective use of computer.

  26. A child who learns many things while still at a very young age always has an edge against others who only know things that are taught at school. A child who has access to internet is exposed to more kinds of ways to learn. Bear in mind though that we still need a guardian to supervise what a kid does using his computer. We cannot deny the fact that children may be exposed in things online that are not appropriate for their age. Guidance is important.

  27. Children nowadays are very knowledgeable when it comes to computer. Well, we’re now at the computer age so what do we expect, right? We believe that our children learn a lot through computer. Yet, we need to remember that it also has its downside. Children who are more exposed to computer have certain disorders that might affect their behaviors. Most of them have ADHD and some have mental disorders. It is because of the radiation they get from computers and that their social lives aren’t normal anymore.
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  28. Learning is great! Moreover if it’s process starts at an early age. But with this case, still considerable but you have to put restrictions to the computer of your daughter so that she will just learn things according to her age. Also, help your child to develop discipline between important things and some leisure in life. The good thing with your disposition is that you guide her or shall I say, you keep on watching her exploration with her computer.

  29. SEC Filings says:

    Kids learning early via the computer can have pros and cons. I think once the computer becomes more part of tv etc, will be more natural.

  30. For many parents, I think the concern is spending too much time playing on the computer at the expense of study time or time spent in real world interaction with their peers. But, with sufficient supervision, and when you set rules in place about how often a child is allowed to use the computer, this concern can be addressed.

  31. In my opinion 5-6 is good age to give your child permission to use computer, but with strict instructions…
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  32. this is an interesting post, i like things that challenge how we think! i don’t have kids but i like to think that when i do, i will get them into computers as early as possible. in fact i would imagine that in this day and age, i won’t even need to push that much; it will be a natural occurence when the child see’s computers everywhere, in schools, and has friends using them

  33. I think 5 is quite young for a child to have a computer of their own, however there is a lot to be said for teaching computer literacy and taking advantage of the many childrens websites out there.

    As with everything – moderation is key.

  34. Media Dog says:

    I have a nephew who started playing Gameboy while still crawling; he learned how to make Mario run before walking himself! At 3 years old he was kicking my butt at FPS’s.
    I’m all for kids learning their environment as best as possible but feel technology has evolved so rapidly that even grownups are too often naive in regards to how it both connects and disconnects us. Parents need to be extra-vigilant in learning, and extra-careful in laying out what’s best for the kids. For example, it’s concerning to me how habit-forming sites like Facebook and Reddit can become. Think of how disconnected you feel when you haven’t logged in for a few days. A few days!!! Can your child go a whole day without seeing a single monitor, without it being the worst day ever? I’ve seen some kids get pretty cranky after a couple hours of losing their phone/texting privileges.

  35. Computers are vital tools for kids to learn with. That’s a cool post. I like it.

  36. so great It’s a good start for kids to learn more and develop their skills as well. But parents should set a schedule for kids in using the computer so that they will be disciplined at young age.Thanks
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  37. jhon iis says:

    Kids learning early via the computer can have pros and cons. I think once the computer becomes more part of tv etc, will be more natural.

  38. A big experience for a child! Learning to use computers will be essential for everyone in the coming years so its important that a childs first experience is a productive one.

  39. Lol, kids these days. My son is only 4 years old, he does like his toy laptop. He wants a real one, so I ended up buying him a second hand one on ebay. In a way its good, but it is recommended you install a “kids browser”. Search online for a kids browser. Paul from chester web design
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  40. This is certainly an important stage in a child’s development. Computers are becoming more and more important in our daily lives and helping a child get used to using them competently from an early age can only be a good thing.

  41. STD Tests says:

    Giving a child a computer has certain concerns. What they can do on the computer must be guided and closely supervised by an adult.

    Children even at the age of 3 now are being allowed to use computers and tablets to be able to educational games. A good time to give them their own is when they can read and type well enough and are responsible enough to take care of it.

  42. Eugene says:

    My son is almost two years and he really likes to click the mouse and keyboard. Dahl old noubuk let dolamyvali, I think that this is only for the better.

  43. I think you have to look at your child’d needs and as a parent you will know whether he or she will benefit from having their own computer.

    Kids nowadays are so advanced and for a five year old to be able to go online is not uncommon.

    I personaly would allow my kid to use my computer but wouldn’t buy them one until the age of around 10.

  44. My children love the V-Tech Baby’s Learning Laptop. I got it for my son for his first birthday. He will be three in a few months and it is still working on the same batteries for my one year old to use.

  45. P170HM says:

    The good news is there is an alternative, and in my opinion, very attractive option. And that is mini laptops.Nice resource!

  46. I think it is most important to introduce kids as early as you can to computers and you had a great way to do that and not go overboard. Many of us have old laptops that could get fixed up enough for a child to learn and play on.

  47. new good computer might help kid a lot or spoil a lot. just observing me and my siblings couple of years ago – i was fascinating in websites, coding and all the stuff, they were playing games. we do this until today.

  48. Apex says:

    Well, I got my first computer when I was 10 years old. However I used it mainly for playing video games, and about 3 years later I discovered what programming was and started learning using the computer – until then, just playing games.

    The computer has it’s advantages, but it can also have some negative effects, like addiction – some kids would stop going out with friends or forget about school/homework just to spend few more hours on Facebook or playing video games.

    You have to think if it is really useful for a 5-year-old kid. – for example what can he/she do on the computer.

  49. My daughter is 5 with autism. We also gave her our old laptop since my husband and I got new ones. We’re so amazed on how she learns fast. She know how to operate it and watch videos in youtube. But now she also wants our iPad. Great thing that there are apps that are suitable for her, educational and informative. Thanks.

  50. My daughter is 2, and she can get around an iPad better than my wife can. It is absolutely incredible to watch.