My 10-year-old son Matthew has had an Apple laptop for a couple of years; he’s been taking online classes for that long, and needs it for his schoolwork. Unsurprisingly, he’s become devoted to the thing, and talks about Steve Jobs the way other boys his age talk about LeBron James. I’ve thought for a while that that was cute — especially his daily geek-obsessive question to me, “Did you check Boing Boing?” — but not much more than that.
Last weekend, he and I had to run some errands, so we spent a lot of time in the car together. He started talking about his computer, and to my surprise, indeed shock, I learned that all the time he’s been spending on the computer hasn’t been on approved websites for kids. No, he’s been reading deeply into the manuals that come loaded into the Mac. I don’t know a lot about how computers work, but I know enough to understand that this kid has a startlingly deep grasp of the subject.
This is not a new story, of course. Smart, geeky, computer-obsessive boys aren’t exactly rare. But I’m left wondering what to do now that I know that I have one. Seriously, how can we channel his love for his computer into something upbuilding? If he were spending his time on video games or online time-wasters, that would be one thing. But teaching himself about the inner workings of his computer has lit a fire in his mind, and I want to encourage that. So I could use some advice from you who have raised kids like this, or who once were kids like this. What should we do? What shouldn’t we do?