You could read this little book (just over 100 pages) between your child's demand for a computer and the family discussion on it. By the time you get round to discussing the issue, you will feel at much less of a disadvantage.
There is a general introduction to technology (The World of Information Technology); a look at education and the national curriculum (IT in Schools); the Internet; and Computers at Home. Any of these sections will stand on its own, for quick reference. There is also a useful glossary, and a list of helpful addresses. And what a joy to find that there is no jargon.
The writers communicate their confidence in the intelligence and worth of the reader (no hint of Computers for the Really Stupid here), and impart the required knowledge as if to a valued friend.
Apart from the simple clarity of the writing, I was impressed that the introduction isn't about IT at all. Adrian and Rosemary Russell talk about qualities that parents have to offer, such as security and integrity, which are more important than ever in our children's fast-moving technological world. They take us through technicalities large and small, but do not neglect simple parental tips which are clearly the fruit of personal experience. They suggest putting the computer in a family room to encourage sharing and prevent isolation. They advise checking that children's social lives are as rewarding as their computer experiences.
This little book should grace parents' association stalls across the country. Anyone suffering filial arm-twisting, or merely aware of gaps in their general IT knowledge, will benefit from the Russells' down-to-earth informativeness.
* The writer is a consultant in IT for primary schools.