the new “can i please watch a cartoon?”

Over the past few months Sharaun has more than once offhandedly mentioned to me that, during the days at home, she thinks about setting Keaton loose on the computer to play around. Keaton has an interest in the thing; how could she not? Her dad is practically tethered to one and her mom makes good use of the Facebook and the Tweeter on occasion as well. It’s only natural for her to desire to use this obviously magical machine herself.

So on Saturday I sat down and created a user account on the machine she could call her very own. For her user icon I used a box of crayons and the wallpaper is a huge spread of Princess Ariel (which she picked herself). I made the interface all magnified and simple thanks to the old-people options in Windows 7, and I got rid of all her desktop icons, notifications, and other distractions. She’s got one big icon in the middle of her desktop that launches Chrome and once inside I pre-loaded about ten or so bookmarks on the top ribbon for her to choose from. I installed AdThwart so she will see only content, and gave her a cursory lesson in mousing. And with that, she was off. Bouncing between bookmarks, she spends her time playing games on NickJr, PBS Kids, and a host of other edu-tainment centric kids’ sites.

Over the past few days she’s become quite good at navigating, and has picked up on the interface and controls surprisingly quickly (a child of a the technological age, I suppose). She knows how to repeatedly get to the same place consistently, figures out how to control games just by trial-and-error, and for the most part is self-taught. In fact, Sharaun and I have a rule that we’re not going to come to the call for “help” while using the computer. There are so many things she can do that will either take her away from where she wants to be or get her “stuck” or something that we told her up-front that if she feels like she needs help she can just click the ‘X’ in the top-right corner and start over. Hopefully that way she learns by herself and we don’t have to come running every thirty seconds (we learned fast that this should be our approach).

And now it’s all she wants to do. “Can I please watch a cartoon?” has gone by the wayside and, “Can I please get on my computer?” is the new hotness.

Hopefully we’ve done a good thing.  (Or at least a benign thing.)


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