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Sunday, February 18 News

Living with Technology / Kid tech support not child's play

Being the resident geek in the house, most of our home's tech support issues fall to me. This includes everything from the cable modem, router, WiFi, laptops, tablets, smart phones, desktops -- even Web-connected TVs.

If it runs on electricity, I'm responsible for it.

But lately, my 9-year-old son has taken to giving me advice on how to fix things.

This started a few years ago with his toys. Generally, the advice was to change the batteries.

Surprisingly, this worked quite well. In most cases, the toy had been left on and the batteries were worn out.

He later learned that things like flashlights have bulbs in them that sometimes burn out, although not as frequently as batteries wearing out.

As his taste in gaming has gone from the handheld, single-user devices to Web connected multi-user devices, his technical needs have advanced.

And so have the problems with each of these devices.

First and foremost, his Minecraft experiences have him needing to connect to other Minecraft servers. He refers to the names of these servers as an "IP address," which it isn't really. IP addresses are typically a series of numbers that look something like: But the strings he types into Minecraft games do resolve to an IP address, so he's close.

He also represents that he's quite knowledgeable about things like routers and other devices. Specifically, whenever the WiFi in our home goes out, he says that I need to reboot our router, which generally does fix the problem.

However, he's recently been telling me I need to reload the firmware on some of my devices. While not completely out of the question, I'm still trying to figure out which of his friends has told him about firmware reloads and what experiences they've had with such techniques.

He's also become something of an expert in using Skype to make calls to his friends while they play Minecraft. What he hasn't learned is when is too early to call.

But along with my son's professed networking skills, he does seem to understand at least a little bit about how Windows computers work. He is able to change users, knows when the computer has frozen up, knows how to safely download software and how to safely present himself on the Internet. All of these things have some parental controls on them and require ongoing discussions, but he's picking it up nicely.

I am looking forward to the day when my son is better at these things than I am. Then I can turn over my tech support duties to him so I can go back to being a computer user rather than the one responsible for it all.

Mark Mathias is a Westport resident and has worked in information technology for more than 30 years. His "Living With Technology" appears every other Friday. He can be contacted at: livingwithtechnology@mathias.org