It takes a lot of effort and time to teach a young child how to use a mouse or keyboard. It takes even longer to get them comfortable enough to maneuver through a GUI with little effort. Yet, once your toddler or young child becomes comfortable at this level, the amount of actual intervention on your part decreases immensely. The goal is not to get them an interactive babysitter but to give them independent computer skills which will build them a strong foundation for their future. Children of today will never remember a time when computers or the Internet did not play a predominate role in their lives. (Unless of course they grow up sheltered from modern technology.) These kids excluded, the geeky child is engulfed by technology.
The future of computers is fuzzy but one thing is certain: they will never go away. With that promising thought in mind, let’s get our children off on the right track and give them the tools to empower their lives with an open and ready to learn attitude.
First things first, if you share your computer with your children it’s important to give them their own user profile. It does not need to be password protected, or have locked down permissions. If full administrator rights on a child’s profile scares you, give them Power User permissions and give it a whirl. You may have to help them run programs more often than not. Windows 7 does give you more leverage in this department, as you can have full admin rights but turn on User control. User Control is very annoying to a super-user such as yourself, and if children have to click a million times to open a program, they may become disgruntled.
So how do you let your child loose on your pc without worrying about spam, spyware or viruses? Further more, what if they uninstall one of your own crucial programs which you’ve lost the serial/key many moons ago? A friend of mine recommends a program called Deep Freeze. This program allows you to take a snapshot of your computer at its absolute best. When you have your perfect configuration setup, you “freeze” the pc to a point in time. If your child makes a bunch of changes, uninstalls programs, deletes files, etc, a simple reboot will take your pc back to where it used to be. It’s similar to a Windows System Restore, without all the trouble and risk of it not actually fixing your problem.
Ok – so we’ve addressed how to give your kids admin rights without a lot of hassle. Let’s talk about this personalized profile.
Giving your child a personalized profile sets you up to arrange all their special programs on their desktop. They have the opportunity to make it their own pc. Also, it helps them navigate easily through the computer so they have less chance of getting lost in Windows Explorer.
- Place their favorite programs and links on their desktop as shortcuts.
- Turn on the setting for big icons so their little eyes can see each program easily.
- Help your child pick out a desktop picture and apply it as their background. They will have fun looking through pictures and picking their own.
- Minimize the amount of icons on their desktop. Eight is the maximum amount of shortcuts.
Now that you have a personalized profile setup for your child, show them how to click on their username. Once logged in, give a grand tour of the different icons available to them on the desktop. Make sure you have bookmarked several kid friendly game and educational sites and show them how to navigate to those pages.
Check back for part two of this article. I will go into further details on the type of peripherals to consider for your child’s computer,which will help their little fingers navigate easier.