With many schools listing laptops and memory sticks as essential learning tools, parents need to be computer-savvy for their kids' sake.
The objective of the technology drive in schools is to make children computer-savvy and to support their schoolwork (extra information, cool presentation, multi-sensory input).
While schools and libraries are good at providing the necessary computer environment, sooner or later in your child's school career a personal computer becomes a must for homework and projects.
Educational computer games, online spelling tests, how-to video clips and science experiments on YouTube all supplement the learning process.
What To Buy
- PC or Mac? Check what they use at school.
- Laptops are not ideal for children: they're heavy, easy to drop, risky to lose, difficult to upgrade.
- If you allow video games, you'll need a powerful processor, more RAM(memory), more hard disk (storage) space and a better video card (new monitors are good quality, it's the card that matters). If the computer is mainly for homework purposes, a middle-of- the-range second-hand machine will do.
- When it comes to the processor (the computer's brain), buy slightly above your current needs, because processors, unlike memory or storage, are difficult to upgrade.
- You will also need computing accesories such as a wireless printer, mouse, and mouse pad.
Where To Buy
- Electronic stores offer deals, but bear in mind you might get worse quality or a machine difficult to upgrade.
- Small "computer service" businesses build computers from new or second-hand parts. Word-of-mouth will tell you which are reliable.
- Buy your friend's or your work's computer when they upgrade, or check ads for second-hand machines. This option carries no warranty.
- http://www.freecycle.org/ distributes second-hand stuff, including computers, for free re-use. The group's philosophy is that of sharing, so try to offer something else in exchange (a table, a tent).
What Parents Need to Master
- Virus protection software
- Operating system and software updates
- Parental control software
- Monitor, keyboard, mouse.
- Computer box containing motherboard, hard disc, processor, RAM, video card,ports (for USB memory sticks, printers, etc).
- Power cables (computer and monitor), monitor-to-computer cable (usually attached to the monitor).
- Operating system installation CDs.
- DVD drive
- Printer (usually with built-in scanner)
Internet (line connection):
- Home telephone line
- Network card and cable
- ADSL modem/router
- Computer-to-modem cable (or wireless equivalent)
- An internet provider (Xtra, ICONZ, Orcon)
For wireless internet, check with a wireless provider (Woosh, Compass, Vodafone).
- Stick to your allotted time.
- Don't pester siblings or parents during their computer time.
- Homework first, fun later.
- No eating or drinking at the keyboard.
- Be net-smart: don't run suspicious software, don't upload photos into public domains, don't reveal contact details in chat rooms.
- Respect your family's values when browsing.
- Computer activity in the lounge only (to ensure appropriate and safe use).
ages and stages
Less is better. A switched-off computer works wonders for toddler pretend-play. Optional: a few good educational games, no internet needed.
5- to 8-year-olds
Learning to read and write, they need internet access for school projects. Because it's easy to type something innocent into Google and get violent/indecent images, install parental control software to filter the content.
9- to 12-year-olds
They use Facebook to share photos and chat rooms to make friends. Software to guard their personal information is a must. Check their games for over-aggressive content. A good threat for misbehaviour is slashing their computer time.
Upgrade the computer's 1-year warranty to 3 years. Kids are ingenious at stuffing up computers.
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- When buying a complete system, ask for free software or a discount on a printer.
- Make sure you have access to good and fast technical support.
- You'll always need a bigger hard disc. Those school trip photos are 2Mb-8Mb each!
- A memory stick is handy for moving files between home and school.
- A computer without software is like a fridge without food. You need a word processor, an internet browser, slide-making software. Make a list as a family.
- Budget for your monthly internet bill ($30-$60 a month) and ask your kids to contribute.
- A computer is not an investment: it loses value every month. Postpone the purchase as long as possible.
- Don't bother with the latest and greatest technology. If your computer is sluggish, buy extra memory.