My current work takes me around the country talking to people in the NHS about what they do, and how they can use IT to improve how they work (or more specifically how they can use the product their bosses have already bought). It’s a fascinating role, especially as I get to talk to people who are not hugely computer literate, but who use them at both home and work.
Over lunch at a recent workshop I was chatting to a couple of nurses and they were talking about how they use computers at home. Tesco.com, facebook and the BBC news seemed to be the things they most looked at, but both reported problems with their young children. One had all kinds of problems with her PC after her unsupervised (!) 6 year old somehow turned off the firewall (or Syman-wotsit as she actually called it). Both were moaning about how complicated it all was and how they really just wanted something simple with which to browse the web.
I was immediately reminded of the car analogy Jon Gruber posted recently when musing on the iPad. The idea being that few people know how their cars work – they know how to operate the user interface but nothing beyond that. This was what these ladies, and I imagine many others needed – a simple device that they could use to browse the net without having to worry about things like updates, spyware checkers, firewalls and the like. I could also do with something like that for my very IT-illiterate girlfriend.
Something like an iPad, or one of those kid specific linux builds might be the answer. I say might because I’m sure the ladies I was talking to, or their older children, would need to sit and do some serious mouse & keyboard work at some point, and I’m not sure that asking them to install a new OS, or even run one in a virtual machine will work. They would probably get on with an Apple, but the cost would be prohibitive I guess what is needed is some kind of switchable ‘kiddie mode’ that can take away some of the complexity, combined with an OS that does not require the user to go dicing under the hood. Does such a thing exist?
Regardless of this however I was rather shocked that a mum would leave such a young kid browsing the web unsupervised. I’m not a parent so I can’t speak from experience, but I would have expected web time to be supervised for children. Am I naive in thinking that?Picture ccourtesy of privatenobby.