I think that it is a bad or even very bad idea to give kids (and most of us adults too, for that matter) unfettered access to the internet and to the electronic tools that are available. We’re more likely to waste our time on games and amusements that do not improve us and that distract us from more important things.
However, there are also resources there that are available that can be a huge help to us in learning and in bettering ourselves. The trick is directing our time and attention toward the good things and away from the bad.
I have two toddlers with no screens of their own to use. At this point it is very easy for me to decide on their behalf which things they will have access to when they use a screen, since they use my screen and I am present the whole time they use it. As they get older, I’m sure I’ll need to find more sophisticated ways of limiting their access.
I’ve begun trying to let my older child use some apps that I think will help him learn age-appropriate skills, and while most of the resources aren’t that great, a couple have really impressed me.
One is a Duolingo for Kids app. It actually has nothing to do with learning a second language — it’s all about learning letters and sounds and words, and beginning to develop some reading comprehension. I’ve needed to help my three-year-old out with some of the lessons, suggesting that there are gaps in the curriculum that ought to be filled in. Still, overall it has been amazingly effective for helping him begin to sound out syllables and recognize words.
When we reached the end of what he could do in the Duolingo Kids app, I began looking for what he could do next. That’s when I discovered how many apps that are highly praised seem not to be great for him, at least at his current level of ability. But I have found one that I think will carry him along a bit further.
The second app that I’ve just started using with him is Khan Kids. There is a section with logic, memory and pattern games, which seems to be perfect for his current abilities.
I dream of continuing to have fun with him on apps of this sort, trying to find a path through different apps to the point where he will have attained a good enough level of literacy and numeracy to begin to benefit from more advanced resources. As we continue to progress, I’ll keep you posted on what I find.