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by Abigail Van Buren

Computer Literacy Essential for Children Now in School

DEAR ABBY: This letter is for "Manny in Las Vegas," who wanted to buy a computer for his grandson but his wife argued against it. She felt he wouldn't need one until he was ready for college. She couldn't be more wrong.

I am the mother of three children, two of them in high school. Students today use computers to write papers, just like we used typewriters when we were in school. My two high schoolers use our computer two or three nights a week to complete their homework assignments. In fact, their high school requires that the students complete a keyboarding course as a requirement for graduation.

Computers are part of our children's future. The younger they learn how to use them, the easier it will be for them. -- SUSAN IN MASSACHUSETTS

DEAR SUSAN: I agree that young children are "wired" to learn more easily than adults. They are also less likely to be technophobic. (Ask anyone who has had to ask his or her children how to program the VCR!) Read on:

DEAR ABBY: I am 12 years old. When I was 10, my parents bought the family a computer. I have loved every minute of it. I have my own Web page, but I also have time for school, family and friends. If Manny's wife thinks the computer is a bad idea for their grandson, she should look at me! -- MELISSA IN PHOENIX

DEAR MELISSA: You're right, and you're also an articulate young lady. Read on:

DEAR ABBY: I read with interest the letter from the grandfather who wanted to buy his grandson a computer. I had the same idea, but I held off buying a computer until my son entered -- kindergarten!

When he was in first grade and needed reading assistance, I bought reading-oriented programs that he looked forward to using, then math, then science and also spelling. He was able to play educational games on the computer because we held out until last year to buy him video games (although all of his friends had a set). My son is in the third grade now, and our computer is, of course, outdated, but I am very happy with our decision.

It was not necessary for him to have a home computer, because his school has a computer class, and even at 6, my son would help his dad negotiate our computer. I hear from friends with older children that they do quite a bit of their homework assignments or research on their home computers.

In my opinion, computers would be an enhancement for a child of any age, and the grandfather should purchase one for his grandson. -- AMBER IN OVILLA, TEXAS

DEAR AMBER: I have a stack of letters on my desk from people of all ages who agree with you. Computer literacy has become a necessary survival skill -- although like any other technology, children's use of it should be supervised by the parents.

DEAR READERS: If I could give young people only one piece of advice, it would be: read, read, read!

In reading, you will open up new worlds, real and imagined. Read for information, read for pleasure. Our libraries are filled with knowledge and joy, and it's all there -- free for the taking.

The person who does not read is no better off than the person who CANNOT read.

What teens need to know about sex, drugs, AIDS, and getting along with peers and parents is in "What Every Teen Should Know." To order, send a business-sized, self-addressed envelope, plus check or money order for $3.95 ($4.50 in Canada) to: Dear Abby, Teen Booklet, P.O. Box 447, Mount Morris, IL 61054-0447. (Postage is included.)

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