- The Washington Times - Sunday, July 8, 2007

Q: The first time our children visited their grandparents this summer, Grandpa began

asking the oldest if he was going to computer camp this summer, if he wants the latest electronic learning toy and the like. It does not seem to be sinking in that we do not let our children on the computer at this stage of their lives and that our focus is raising them to be well-behaved, responsible, polite children.

I just gave a friendly reminder that we don’t let our children use the computer at this time and left it at that. Should I say more? Grandpa doesn’t have any medical issues. He’s just obsessed with seeing to it that his grandchildren are computer savvy.

A: I’m sure Grandpa wants the best for his grandchildren, but he obviously thinks (as do most people) that children who aren’t allowed access to computers and the Internet until their high school years, and then only with strict supervision, will be at a great disadvantage as adults.

That’s simply not true. Computer programs are becoming so user-friendly that a computer-illiterate 18-year-old can be “up to speed” in about a month. Even higher levels of computer technology are becoming increasingly easy to master. A fortysomething friend of mine, for example, began using a computer about 10 years ago and has become a skilled Web designer.

You are right to take a “better safe than sorry” position where computers are concerned. Good research done by people such as psychologist Jane Healy (“Endangered Minds,” “Failure to Connect”) finds that computer use before the preteen years can harm developing problem-solving skills. Unfortunately, most schools are paying no attention to the red flags raised by some of the research, which is why computers are found even in many kindergarten classrooms.

I’m even more conservative when it comes to the Internet. The potential dangers involved in letting even high school students have their own passwords and use the Internet unsupervised should not need enumeration.

Yes, you said enough to Grandpa. He has made up his mind, and there’s probably nothing you can say that will sway him. Be kind, courteous and respectful. Whatever he says or does, just remember that you have the final word concerning your children. So speak softly.

Q: My 3-year-old daughter still takes an hour nap in the afternoon. My husband’s parents keep telling me their children stopped taking naps before age 2.

My daughter is a mess if she doesn’t get at least an hour of quiet time in her room looking at books or playing quietly. Is this normal?

A: Apparently — and I was not aware of this — the very best parents raise children who stop taking naps before they are 2 years old. Most parents, including my wife and myself, would fail this standard.

Yes, it is normal for 3-year-olds to take naps. In fact, most day care centers, preschools and pre-kindergarten programs require 4-year-olds to nap after lunch. I dare say that even if all of these children do not need to nap, their parents and teachers need for them to nap, and that is justification enough.

Why this has become an issue for your in-laws is anyone’s best guess, but treating their nap advice with good humor is your best recourse. The next time your in-laws tell you they raised children who stopped taking naps before their second birthdays, show interest in how they managed to accomplish that particular parenting feat. Let them feel that you regard them as child-rearing authorities and are open to their suggestions. It will cost you nothing and profit you plenty.

Family psychologist John Rosemond answers parents’ questions on his Web site (www.rosemond.com).

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