How to Explain Computer Terms to Children

by Kathryn Hatter

It’s virtually impossible to get through a day without using some type of computer technology. With the increasing prevalence of computers, for work, play, information and communication, it’s imperative that children have working knowledge of basic technology -- called “computer literacy” or “digital literacy,” according to CENGAGE Learning. Give kids a primer of computer terms to help them recognize and understand common terminology when they hear it.

Provide a brief overview of a computer and its functions for your child. Start with the premise that a computer is a small or large device that works to examine, analyze and process information, or “data.” Data includes numbers, words, graphics, video and audio files. Computers consist of hardware -- the mechanical parts -- and software -- the programs installed on the computer to process and create data.

Show your child the common components of a standard computer, including the central processing unit, the monitor, the keyboard, the mouse, storage devices and a printer. Show your child a laptop computer, and compare the components of the laptop to the desktop computer, highlighting the portability of the laptop. Show your children a handheld computer, such as a smartphone.

Explain each part as you show it to your child. For example, the central processing unit might compare to the computer’s “brain.” Tell your child that the keyboard and the mouse are tools used to put data or information into the computer. The monitor of the computer shows users the data inside the computer. Storage devices are the spots where the computer stores data -- both internally inside the computer and externally when plugged into a “port” (a connection) on the computer.

Talk about computer connectivity with your child so she understands how technology connects people electronically. When a computer connects to the Internet, it connects to a vast network that spans the entire world. People use the Internet to communicate, share and learn information, shop for services and goods and engage in entertainment. A computer must have the hardware necessary to connect to the Internet and connection services must also be available to connect.

Explore terminology involved in using a computer so your child has familiarity with these words. “Booting” or “rebooting” a computer refers to turning the computer on or restarting it. “Running” a program refers to starting a program. A computer “bug” or “virus” refers to glitches or problems that can infect a computer, usually from the Internet.

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