When deciding where to put the family computer, it is important to consider the age of the people who will be using it. There are different approaches to this depending on whether your family computer is for a young family or a family of teens. As your family grows and changes, so will the placement of your family computer.
First and foremost, you must make Internet safety your number one priority, whether you have a young family or a family of teens. You would never let your child wander into a unknown, possibly dangerous, city by themselves — so why would you allow your kids to face the online world alone? Don’t count on Internet filters or blocks to do the supervising for you — in most cases, your kids are more computer savvy than you may be and could get past anything you set up. There is no substitution for parental supervision.
That said, there is no one-size-fits-all approach to putting your computer in the best place possible. Different age groups need different things.
If you have a young family, you will definitely want the computer in an open area with high-traffic. Most likely, the computer will mostly be used for games, music, and other sources of entertainment. Make sure the computer is in an area with enough room for two or more people to use it. This is important not just for safety supervision, but also because young children will need instruction how to use the computer and safely navigate the Web.
While the computer should be in a high-traffic area, keep in mind that, especially with a young family, you want the computer to be in a safe place. Try to find an area away from where kids most often play — you don’t want a stray ball or a wrestling match to cause costly damage to your family computer. Consider putting the computer in some kind of media hutch or cabinet with doors that will protect the computer when it’s not in use. This can save you money and trouble in the long run.
With a young family, online safety isn’t the only type of safety to be concerned with. When figuring out where to put the family computer, be sure to find a place where you can keep power cords and strips as hidden as possible, or at least as unreachable as possible. Little kids, especially toddlers, are constantly exploring (often with their mouths) and a bunch of dangling cords and buttons can be tempting — and dangerous. Check out different child safety product suppliers for items that help hide cords and protect outlets.
As kids grow into the teen years, the needs and uses of the computer will change. While the computer will still be used for fun and entertainment, it will also be used more for studying and homework. Teens also develop more of an interest in chatting and emailing as they get older, so they may feel more need for privacy. There are ways to meet the growing needs of your teens, while still maintaining safety online.
A good idea is to keep the computer in a high-traffic area, especially as teens chat with friends and, in some cases, complete strangers. Keeping the computer in the open also prevents teens from accessing adult websites and questionable encounters. Once you have established your rules and your teen has shown that they can be trusted, you can decide how much supervision your teen needs and how much freedom you can allow. Respect your teen’s desire for privacy, but make sure they’re held accountable for their actions online through regular supervision.
One problem that teens can face when the computer is in a high-traffic area is constant distraction and noise when they are trying to study and do homework. One way to fix this problem is to put a computer (possibly the computer your new one replaced) in the teen’s room, but without an Internet connection. This will allow them to use the computer to type, put together any school project, and listen to their music without interruption. If they do need the computer for research, they can use the family computer, since the same quiet atmosphere is not as necessary.
By being adaptable and open to the changes that come with a growing family, you can be sure that your family computer is in the best possible location.