Finding Good Software for My Kids
Q: How do I tell what software is good for my kids?
A: With more than 2,000 kids' CD-ROMs out there (and counting!), it's a tough job. But this three-part approach may help:
- Find resources you respect.
- Try out as many programs as you can.
- Develop some general, easy-to-remember standards, and keep them in mind as you explore the particulars of the software titles you're considering.
Resources can include friends who have software for their children, teachers, your local library, magazines, books, and World Wide Web sites. Using the recommendations from sources like these, choose a few titles for closer consideration.
Ask to use software at a friend's house, or borrow the software for a day or two. Increasingly, public libraries are lending CD-ROMs. Some video stores rent CD-ROMs. Many science and children's museums have multimedia centers where children and parents can try different titles. At computer shows, software publishers often give away "demo" disks that let you preview their programs; you can also request demo CD-ROMs via publishers' 800 numbers or download demos from their Web sites.
A good starting point may be to adapt the criteria used by The Computer Museum (Boston, Massachusetts) to screen software for its hands-on exhibit, The Best Software for Kids Gallery:
- Ask yourself if the software brings truly innovative features to your child's on-screen experience. Think twice if a CD-ROM does little more than bring a familiar book or game, TV cartoon, or movie to the electronic desktop.
- Ask yourself if the software invites active participation, exploration, and discovery. Are kids really being challenged to learn? Or are they just watching, pointing, and clicking?
- Ask yourself if the software's use of multimedia really enhances learning. If there's too much music and sound, animation, and video, kids can lose track of what they're doing and why.
- Ask yourself if the software will tempt your kids to play again and again. Or will they lose interest once the novelty wears off?