Vinod Kurup

Hospitalist/programmer in search of the meaning of life

Kids and Computers

I’m sure it’s probably too early to worry about this, but I often wonder about the best way to introduce Kavi and Anika to computers. ‘Introduce’ isn’t the right word because even Anika has more experience with computers than I did at that age. So far, though, computers are something that Daddy and Mommy use to do work, not things that are for them. We’ll show them a Sesame Street video on YouTube or family pictures on Facebook, but they don’t spend any significant amount of time on it. They’re easily entertained without computers. I know that will change as they get older, but for now at least, they prefer their toys and their imagination to TV or computers. Even at their young age, that is rare.

The dilemma is that I do want them to learn about technology and learn how to use it in their lives without being controlled by it. I don’t see anything wrong with exposing them to things like computers, iPads, YouTube, etc., as long as it is monitored. I just want it to be a healthy portion of their leisure time, not all of it. So many children’s entertainment options are spoon-fed propaganda. They are meant to be passively enjoyed, and the child just sits and absorbs it. The source of the content is often questionable. Advertisers for big corporations or government trying to get their message to kids either overtly or subtly.

I like my childhood experience. My first major exposure to computers was an Apple IIe. There was nothing organized about it. I spent a large majority of my time playing games, but those were just the gateway drugs to get me to realize that there was much more power in those machines. The entire experience was about tinkering. Trying to figure out how it worked, how to make it work for me, how I could make it do things. The most exciting days in my childhood were the days that the inCider magazine arrived with pages of DOS code listings in the back. Retyping those code listings, making alterations, trying to figure out how things worked… that is much more healthy than just watching a video over and over again. I, of course, was much older than Kavi is now, so I’m not too worried. I just don’t want them to get addicted to a certain concept of what technology is for, before they have the skills to really take advantage of it.