Should kids have a computer in their room?


Many parents ask this question and wonder: Should my child have a computer in his/her room? Is that safe? At what age? Will he/she be profiled, cyber-bullied or stalked?

While there may not be a "one size fits all" answer to this question, there are certainly some things to consider, that may assist you in making an informed decision. After asking around a bit and doing online research, I gathered the following data:

  • Some parenting experts say to never place a computer in a child's room
  • Some parenting experts say a bedroom computer is okay as long as porn filters are installed
  • Numerous experts say that computers should be centralized - in a living room, kitchen area, etc
  • Other parenting experts say you should give your child a computer, and not filter their useage (i.e. allow them to figure things out on their own)
  • Other parenting experts say that children should not have computers at all (outdoor time is better, etc)

Why am I writing about this, on an Early Childhood website? I believe that it's much better to be prepared, ahead of time, than to look back, in regret. All of us with young children can learn from those who came before us. Therefore, I'm sharing this information with you to keep you informed, thinking, contemplating and aware. Furthermore, there are early childhood websites targeting small children now, also. For instance, Nickelodeon's - where shower peeping and back-ally hacking are promoted to preschoolers.

What's a parent to do?

After asking Mary Kay Hoal, founder of and mother of five children, she replied:

Based on my experience, it depends on the child and your home situation.

I know many "experts" say: keep the computer in a room like the kitchen or family room area. In my household, that works for the younger kids, but isn't realistic the older kids get. The computer - a laptop - is at the kitchen table when my 9 or 6 year old use it.

My 11 year old needs more time away from his younger siblings, (to avoid fighting with them) so he's best left alone with the computer that is in the other room. (Not his bedroom).

In our house the family room/kitchen are always busy, loud, homework being done, maybe a TV on if in the evening. My husband and I talking. Me cooking. Too busy for the older kids that need to study and use computer for homework, etc. a "central room" really does not work in my house.

Now, I have one child that was, once, trouble from the get-go online. That child never ever got to have a computer in their room.

I have another older child that was never a problem related to their online activities. They both had the same rules. The computer(s) had the same software on them. One just chose to follow the family rules the other didn't.

The child that followed the rules - including knowing that browser history couldn't be erased; that I could do a 'quick check' at any point - got to have a computer in their room at 16. They also paid for the computer themselves with allowance money. My other child at the same age did not get that liberty.

I don't believe our kids seek trouble online. From what I've seen, and heard from talking to parents, it often just comes to them. With no parent involvement, awareness, or clear rules and guidelines, things can spiral out of control.

- Mary Kay

Mary Kay brings up several good points:

  • Not everyone has a large or open 'central area' in which to place a computer
  • Some families have large age gaps between children and their computer useage will differ greatly
  • Not every child can be automatically trusted on a computer
  • Not every child should be automatically dis-trusted on a computer
  • Darn it - children have a mind of their own and some kids will listen...others will not

So who's being targeted online, anyway?

According to a recent Michele Borba article, new research indicates (as you may have already guessed) that predators typically target specific children. From her article we read:

The most vulnerable youth to online predators are those with lower-self esteem. It appears that predators specifically prey on kids who lack strong identity or have a weaker social network of their own. (Which is what research also shows about offline bullying).

My Personal Opinion:

My eldest son is now 11 years old. He set up a Facebook account weeks ago, against my wishes (at his father's house). "All my friends have one!" My husband and I demanded to know his pass-code. Reluctantly, he told us. I went online and quickly saw that he had become engaged in a cyber-bullying incident with several other classmates. All within days of creating his account! I shut down his account that moment and wrote an angry note to Facebook about the fact that my son wasn't even 13 years old - he had simply put in a false birthdate and because Facebook has no checking system, his account was set up, no questions asked.

I also left a nice long note on the Facebook stream for all of those children to see - all about cyber-bullying and how laws are now being set to prosecute such behavior - that kindness should prevail and hateful talk should never be acceptable...on or off the computer.

For this reason (and others) we have our son's computer in a central location. Five feet from my computer, in fact, on our kitchen counter. It's annoying and of course, a space suck. However, I'm not going to allow a computer in his bedroom and we don't have any other central location to consider. So - in the kitchen it will remain.

If I felt as though I didn't need to worry about him, however, I might consider moving the computer at a later date. Being a believer in the idea that children need parents to monitor their behavior in order to render effective members of society, I would use a filtering system.

According to one study several years ago, upwards of 60% of online websites were considered pornographic. A 2007 article, however, stated that 12% of websites are porn-related and that 89% of porn is created in the USA. Whatever the current statistics, we know that it's a multi-billion dollar industry and sucks in many a decent mind, kids included. Therefore, my husband and I would most assuredly install filters on our son's computer in order to protect him from the damaging materials. I have direct experience with a past relationship and porn addiction so you may assume I speak from experience here - I know the damage that can be done to a life and mind. No way would I deliver my own child into the hands of people wanting to harm him and remove his childhood and mental well-being.

After Googling about online filters, here is what I found:

Closing Thoughts:

Whatever you decide is best for your family and lifestyle, remember the wise words of Wendy, founder of Kidlutions (from a recent interview on the Learning and Laughter with Louise toginet radio program:

Our brains are not fully formed until we're 25 years old. So kids are impulsive and kids make decisions based on peer pressure and based on group think behaviors. They need the guidance of a strong steady parent who's very present in their lives - emotionally and physically. Having worked with a number of teenagers who have been in quite a bit of trouble with the law (and adults), and children who have been in foster places and in juvenile detention homes...every single one of them has said to me, "Why didn't my parents care enough to ask me? To give me a consequence? To have me do the right thing? To expect more from me?" There are plenty of people in this world to be friends with your children. Your child needs a parent. Plain and simple. It's a huge job - it's a huge task. We aren't there to be best friends. It's our job to make sure our kids are safe and secure and that they are well. That they grow up to be a good adult. And it's okay for them not to like us. That's what we signed on for when we signed up for the job of parent.

Additional Info:


ABOUT the Author:

Shara Lawrence-Weiss is the owner of Mommy Perks, Personal Child Stories, Early Childhood News and Resources and Kids Perks (coming soon). She has a background in education, early childhood, nanny work, published freelance, marketing and special needs.


#10 elizabeth 2012-11-14 05:39
LOL :lol: I do the same thing to my 10-yr-old son! I'm watching you, with the finger point too ;-)
#9 Guest 2010-06-07 11:26
No child should be allowed to have a computer in their room until they've moved out and/or left for college. The computer needs to be in a common area so that parents can monitor what's going on.
#8 Guest 2010-06-07 09:05
My children are young. They are allowed to use the laptop in a communal area when I am around. I have heard horror stories about older children accessing awful sights and showing them to younger children so I am very protective at the moment of my children being too far from me seeing whats on the screen
#7 Guest 2010-05-30 17:19
I also come, from a large family, and my siblings have many children (well, between us) My husband comes from a family of ONE and was, in my opinion, given WAY too much rope, as it were. He was SHOCKED at the lack of privacy my nephews in particular had growing up. E.G. only privacy you get is in the bathroom, bedroom doors are open, computer work is done 'in public' areas. I could never figure out how kids could do stuff like build bombs or stockpile weapons to do heinous things, cyber bullying stuff never even crossed my mine, but I always wondered how it was even possible for parents or siblings not to know what they're kids were up to. After meeting my husband, I now totally understand. He was a latchkey kid with TOTAL privacy. And the authors' are correct, there are all kinds of types of kids on the spectrum, but now that I'm a parent of 2 I choose to be better save than sorry. And to quote again, I'm their mom, not their friend. Good luck everyone!
#6 Guest 2010-05-30 09:04

Computer and Internet have become part and parcel of our life. It is quite difficult not to let our kids use computer or internet.

There are just way too many 'attractions' that are harmful to our kids, like porn, online betting/casino.

Parental Control Software is good. But will this create even more curiousness among kids, especially teens? Will they turn to friends for such info or worst surf porn at their friend's house.
#5 Guest 2010-05-30 08:27
Hi Shara,
Computer and internet are becoming part and parcel of our life.

There are just way too many 'attractions' on the internet that are harmful for kids, like porn, online betting/casino.

Parental Control Software is good. But will it cause more curiousness with your kids if you block/filter their access to such info, especially for the teens?
Will they turn to friends or go to friend's house to surf porn?
#4 Guest 2010-05-30 06:55
Facebook is becoming such an addiction for kids. I don't believe I'll allow a computer in Abby's room when she gets older. I'm way too nosy and paranoid! It's not that I don't trust her but I believe in the old "trust but verify" system. I still think about that poor girl that killed herself because she was being bullied on facebook. Such a sad story but it won't be the last, unfortunately.
#3 Guest 2010-05-30 03:16
Hi Shara,
Very important information. Good kids can make bad choices when they are sucked into online relationships.

We have a tip on computer guidelines for young kids - keeping in mind that it is aimed at parents with children under six - it suggests staying with your child if they are online.
#2 Guest 2010-05-29 09:09

Thanks for bringing light to SUCH an important topic! You are always on the ball!

I'm so glad you are "out there" doing what you do!


(For the record...our computer is front and center in an office right off of our dining room. My 15 y.o. is on it now...and I can see EVERYTHING he is doing. Like I tell all of my kids, "I've got my eyes on you! We even have an inside joke with a know, the two fingers pointed towards my eyes...and then directed back at them. I even do this to their friends at times, when they are over...or while on hockey weekends. Kids need to KNOW that adults care enough to be involved in what they are doing! We need to TELL them we are watching, too! =))
#1 Guest 2010-05-28 20:14
First of all communication is KEY about the internet! No internet connected computers in their bedrooms, as I think they need to be fully monitored until their 18th birthday.

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