There is a great worry by many parents that their child will fall behind their peers and be tech illiterate if they do not introduce them early to computers. Is this a valid concern and does introducing computers early to children make them more computer savvy?
What does it mean to be computer savvy? Is it knowing how to create computer programs, create documents, solve problems, create art, make music or any other creative pursuit with a computer; or is it knowing how to use a computer to consume media created by some one else? A computer is simply a tool like any other tool humans have created throughout our long history on this earth. It can be used for good or bad; for productive purposes or to waste time.
Looking back at the history of computing we find that computers were in existence long before screens were. Theory of computing and even the first computer program were written even before the first computer existed. Taking this into account we can't say that those that created the first computers and programs were not computer savvy or computer illiterate. These pioneers of computing history had a deeper understanding of the tools they were creating than the majority of computing users today.
Knowing how to create a computer and how to write one is really not all that different to how most of us use a car today. We know how to operate a car but we do not know in detail how all the systems work, how to build one or how to fix one. There are a subset of people who create, design and fix our cars and this translates quite well to how computers are designed, programmed and fixed today.
People are smart and adaptable, our children are no different, they learn quickly and pick up new skills all the time. At different times of their life we introduce new skills and subjects for them to learn, delaying them does not necessarily put them at a disadvantage to those that may have had an earlier start.
When you introduce a computing device (a desktop, phone, game console or tablet) to your child think about what it is you want them to learn? Are you wanting them to learn to use a tool, consume media, create media, create solutions, use problem solving tools or express themselves in a new way. The way that they interact and use a computing device has differing levels of benefits to their development.
Slowing down the introduction of a computing device to watch cartoons or play games won't stop your child from being computer literate nor will not knowing how to use the current version of Windows. Think back to when you started using a computer and what they are like know, they have changed considerably, you have had to learn new skills and interfaces to use them as they have evolved. It would be suprising that the way we use computers today and interact with them will be the same by the time they use them in the work force or for school assignments.
Introducing the creative aspects of using a computer can have some beneficial impacts on children, they can find new ways to express themselves, find outlets to create things that they don't have ability to in the physical world and can share their creations with family abroad. These pursuits can be worthwhile and if computers are going to be introduced early should be encouraged.
The key to computer literacy and competency where one can use a computer effectively to solve problems, create new computer programs and create media to share with others should be encouraged by building up the same core skills the modern founders of computing all shared. All were skilled in math and logic; and it makes sense when you think about what a computer is, it is a calculator, a complex calculator.
Encourage your child's development through love of learning, interest in math, logic, science and reading and they will be computer savvy not irrespective of whether you introduce computers to them at a very early age or later when they are using them to complete projects at school.
Responsible use of a computing devices and appropriate amounts of screen time will help not hinder your child. Encourage responsible levels of screen time for your child with Pixel Pounds.