The most difficult thing parents face after buying a computer, is deciding what software to buy, according to Jacquie Disney of the Parents Information Network (PIN).
PIN was set up in 1994 to help parents cope with computers and now has over 12,500 members. "We carried out a membership survey and over 90 per cent of those who replied said they wanted more help in deciding what CD-Roms to buy," says Disney. She adds that the differences between the values and objectives of home and school software have not been properly debated. For instance, there are some who believe that the software used at home should be closely tied to how it is used in schools, which PIN disputes: "It's not for parents to deliver the national curriculum. The idea that they should shadow the national curriculum at home doesn't do anyone any favours," says Disney.
Many parents have always reinforced learning at home, but they shouldn't attempt to re-create the classroom at home. "Let parents use software differently, rather than think they should be following attainment targets. If a child is doing the same thing at home and school, he or she will get bored. There should be some fun in learning."
It isn't easy for parents to choose CD-Roms in a high street store. Most packaging is festooned with national curriculum attainment targets, which make it difficult to compare one title with another.
Another problem is getting a title that offers value for money. A teacher may use a CD-Rom with groups of pupils year after year, but at home, the same title may be finished in hours.
"A child obviously has greater access to a computer at home and so can work through a disc much more quickly. It can be disheartening to find that a Pounds 30 disc has been finished in an afternoon," says Disney, "We've quite a few disgruntled parents. A good content depth is the answer."
* PIN is launching a subscription scheme that will include a guide to good CD-Roms for parents. Subscriptions will be Pounds 15 for existing members and Pounds 20 for new members. There will also be a special deal for schools. Contact PIN at PO Box 1577, London W7 3ZT.Tel: 0181 248 4666