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Tech-Talk: Buying A Computer For Your Kids:

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By Mia Bolaris-Forget

Do you know how many of us have said “NOT ME” when it came to lots of things we are now not only doing but willingly so. Well, that applies to raising children.

We all have this preconceived notion (based on how we were raised, both good and bad) about how we feel we are going to raise our kids, so as not to repeat the same mistakes our parents made.

There is simply “no way” we are going to be confounded by the same issues, because we “know better”, and while that certainly may be true in certain arenas, we are going to be confronted with a whole NEW set of “problems” to deal with and handle one with no (Roe vs. Wade) precedence to abide by. Among these raising well-balanced, appreciative, considerate, thoughtful children that are NOT spoiled in this very technologically advanced world.

Let’s face it folks, when we were kids, an electric typewriter was considered avant-garde, and we didn’t need (or own) one of those until we needed to type out our own term papers. Spiral notebooks with tear out sheets and book covers were all the rage, and any child with an ink-erase pen was considered technologically advanced.

From laptops and Ipods to digital imaging programs, even it seems that children from toddlers to tweens and teens are savvy about technology and much of it, believe it or not, is necessary for giving them an educational edge.

But what is really necessary as far as buying your child a computer? And, do you really “have” to spend as much on a home pc as you expect to on a university education. The best advice experts have to offer is weighing out advantages and benefits to expenses and use that to help make the best decision for you and your child.

1. PC: Deciding To Get Your Child His/Her Own Computer: Professionals point out that one of the reasons many parents decide to buy their child a computer is to avoid any potential damage or destruction to theirs. However, they note that there is an increasing trend of younger and younger students (as early as third grade) receiving homework assignments and projects that require the use of a computer and doing research on the net. Having more than one PC (personal computer) may help keep issues of computer use and time pc (politically correct) in your home.

2. Hand Me Downs: Experts say that generally speaking children 7 and under should be fine with an old machine. However, older children who may engage in some games that require more updated programs, sound and video cards etc may require something newer, with more memory, speed, and disk space. They suggest checking the labels of several software titles your child is using (and you approve of) in order to establish the minimum hardware requirements needed.

3. Decisions, Decisions: The choice between getting a Mac or a PC can often be confusing, especially since each have their own unique characteristics and advantages. Experts remind parents that both systems operate quite similarly and the decision should be based on how your child intends or needs to use the computer. Macs are magnificent for graphics, design, and offer the most advances multimedia features such as DVD writers and built-in FireWire ports essential for digital video editing, though they can’t accommodate many games. Keep in mind however, that it’s easier to share programs and data among similar platforms, so you may want to stick to the type of computer your child uses at school. You’ll also want to have a system that offers exemplary tech support, especially if your child is reliant upon it for schoolwork.

4. Money Talks: While there is no doubt that you get what you pay for, you’ll also want to remember that a less expensive model of a high quality machine will do the job just as well (just with less bells and whistles). Experts note that manufacturers usually charge a premium for the latest technology, with only a minimal increase in ability or performance. Your best bet is a middle-of-the-road product from a company with a name you can trust. You should also remember, that not only do young children NOT need the higher end stuff (what will they look forward to or aspire toward), but with the constant and rapid change in technology, you investment may soon be antiquated and obsolete. Focus on a machine with speed and memory in the price range you can afford.

5. Basic Requirements: If you’re not familiar with computer jargon, you’ll want to get familiar with certain basic terms such as speed, memory, and storage. Minimum requirements should include a computer with a 1-gigahertz processor (for speed), 236 megabytes of RAM, (for memory), and a 20 gigabyte hard disk (for storage space). It’s quite common to find a wide range of video cards; NVIFIA’s GEFORCE2 as an acceptable mid-range solution for everyone but high-end gamers; and you’ll want to add a DVD drive for playing movies. If your family will engage in copying music disks, you’ll also need a second rewritable DVD drive (DVD-RW), capable of holding much more data, as well as playing feature length movies to boot.

6. Room Service: While your child may think that his/her room is the best place for his/her computer, experts remind parents, “It’s Not”. Instead keep the new computer in a public area such as the den, office, living room, etc, so that you can monitor the time your child spends on the computer and for what. And always place the computer in a place that will “force” you child to be close to you (in eye and ear distance) and that makes you available to handle “problems” and/or answer questions.

7. Internet Access: With so much going on these days, many parents have valid concerns about allowing their child/children use the Internet. However, experts note that “prohibition” never solves anything. Besides, he/she may need it for legitimate research. First you should however install a Security program that will scan for viruses and protect personal information, block hackers, and limit the sites your child can access and visit. Additionally, surf the net with your child so that you can explain “inappropriate” sites and marketing ploys that will no doubt (somehow) surface. To save time and ford the sake of speed, consider a cable or DS L connection. Once your child is ready to surf the net on his/her own, make sure you install a filtering program, but always remember, that since these programs are not perfect (and kids are probably more tech savvy than you), it’s best that YOU continue to monitor usage.

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