I introduced my three year old son to Ubuntu Linux and he loves it! For his third birthday I gave him an old Gateway laptop.
We noticed his fascination with technology when he began using my IPhone when he was only two years old. People around us were amazed that he could properly navigate the phone. He could take pictures and videos, play various games and educational kids apps, and even browse Youtube videos.
A few weeks before my son’s third birthday, he started to show much more interest in my Lenovo laptop, and was getting bored with my IPhone. That’s when I decided to dig out an old laptop that was running XP. Amazingly, he was able to infect the laptop with viruses and malware. (He clicks advertisements, and was even able to install software.) He was also able to make serious system changes, and somehow deleted the sound driver.
After formatting the hard drive, and reinstalling XP, there was a problem of not being able to find the proper audio drivers. I tried installing from the “Device Manager”, from the Gateway drives page, and even tried Driver Genius Pro, and Driver Pack Solution, but had no success. I was starting to think he physically damaged the audio card.
To test the audio card on the laptop, I booted to an Ubuntu Live Disc, and the audio worked right away. I decided to install Ubuntu 12.04, and use Gnome Classic, set with “No Effects”. The interface is simpler than Unity (compiz) for a child that can’t read yet. Unity requires the user to search and type with the keyboard to access programs and settings, so Gnome-Classic is a much better option.
Ubuntu has out-of-the box support for the audio, is way faster, and is MUCH safer when it comes to spyware, adware, malware, and viruses.
To prevent my son from making any drastic system changes, I haven’t taught him his root (admin) password yet. With the current setup running Ubuntu, he can click and type whatever he wants, without messing anything up. I setup the desktop and gnome panel with customized icons, and he knows how to use the menu to select various applications and launchers. I also installed all the pre-school applications from Edubuntu (an educational version of Ubuntu for kids), and various other games and educational software.
Some of his favorite applications are Tux Paint, Firefox (Youtube, AddictingGames.com), SuperTuxKart, Potato Guy, and Armagetron Advanced. To navigate, he mainly uses the mouse and the arrow and “Enter” keys on the keyboard. Playing with the computer and IPhone has helped him memorize and learn his ABC’s and numbers. He knows how to close windows and tabs, and is learning how to read certain words such as “Play”, “Next”, and “Go”.
I also have Firefox setup with various bookmarks on the bookmarks toolbar, including videos on Youtube. Lately the majority of the videos he has been watching are cartoons in other languages, especially Spanish. I have some of his favorite movies in English and Spanish, with and without subtitles. For his age, I believe learning languages through cartoons and films is the easiest and most effective way to learning other languages.
It amazes me how my son can figure out how to navigate to websites even when it’s not bookmarked. For instance, there is game site he loves to visit, that he found by clicking an advertisement on a particular Youtube video he enjoys watching. He remembered that all he has to do is go to that Youtube page, and click the advertisement to get to the game site.
Personally I feel like getting kids involved with technology at a young age,(with supervision) is an excellent way to educate and prepare them for using computers. Most children at his age have never touched a computer or Iphone, and he will have years of experience under his belt, when his peers will have little or none.
My son is learning; hand-eye coordination, how to read, problem solving, and Spanish. He’s also learning and understanding how computers work, and how to properly navigate and multitask with the Linux operating system.
What do you feel is the best age for children to start using a computer? Is 3 years old too young? Please give your thoughts and comment.