I wanted to ask the community's opinion on this question: How to get a 15 yr old started with a computer?.

I don't feel this question is on-topic here. It might be a fine line to walk, but it was asked by a non-relative, who wasn't going to be involved in this kid's life at all. It was basically a question by someone asking for recommendations for software.

We do want to increase the number of questions here, I understand that. And not all the questions asked by parents here are about parenting. But how do we define what legitimately belongs here? I will probably need to go back and do some reading about this site as well.

Any thoughts? Thanks.

Edited to add: I do think questions asked by persons acting in loco parentis are more acceptable (babysitters, au pairs, nannies, etc.) The problem (for me, not necessarily others) is that there was no hint of this in this case.

  • Would you have felt differently about the question if it were written by a parent about getting their own child started on a computer?
    – user420
    Feb 10, 2015 at 2:01
  • Actually, yes, I would have. I know it doesn't make much sense, but that would have meant the parent would be helping and would be investing more time, and that investment means something to me (in terms of answering the question). I don't know what that says about my question, really. That's why I asked for feedback. Feb 10, 2015 at 3:13
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    no, it makes perfect sense. Situations like this have come up before, where someone not in a parenting role has asked a parenting question, and the nature of their specific non-parenting relationship became an issue. Generally, my feeling in those cases is that the question would usually benefit from some edits to make it "more on topic", but that doesn't always fix the underlying problem.
    – user420
    Feb 10, 2015 at 11:50

2 Answers 2


I think it was on topic, and in large part because it wasn't primarily a request for software. The question as I interpreted it was simply, how do you get a child started on a computer. It didn't actually include a request for software, note: it was a request for "Books, methods, or schedule", as well as "how to track their progress". None of those are necessarily software. I chose to include some suggestions organized around software, because I felt that was the best way to explain methods - but I mostly avoided naming specific software, except when it was the easiest way to explain what I mean so I was clear. I also only answered the question in part, because I don't have much experience teaching children [given mine are below keyboard-using age] - I would've hoped another would have that experience.

To me, it didn't matter that it wasn't a parent, although I understand the concern that it wasn't. The question would've been the same if asked by a parent, and we've constantly stretched 'parenting' to include parenting-like activities (and including parent-child relationships from the child's point of view, for example, which I think is much less on-topic than this type of question). Questions about 'how do I deal with my sister's kid who behaves very badly' and such are on topic, for example. My feeling on these questions is that if the activity consists of:

  • Acting in loco parentis in some fashion (for example, an aunt who babysits during the workday)
  • A skill that is normally associated with parenting (teaching a child good behavior, for example)
  • A question that, if you changed the author to a parent of the child, would not be substantively different (this question)
  • A child's relationship with his/her parent (this I don't entirely agree with, but it's clearly on topic from what we've allowed/accepted here in the past)

Then they should be on topic here, despite not technically being a question from a parent.

  • "So I got a chance to speak to the kid of the security guard of our office... I am just looking here for any opinions or advice you may have gathered on how to get a fresh mind get started with a computer and how to track their progress. ...I will not be able to coach him or provide tuitions due to time constraints on my part and I also want him to learn it on his own." This is very different and very far from in loco parentis. An aunt who babysits, on the other hand, really is acting in loco parentis. Feb 11, 2015 at 2:01
  • Absolutely. I wasn't saying this was a in loco parentis case; I was stating generally all on-topic reasons for similar kinds of questions (ie, questions by non-parents). I was saying this was the third: a question that would be not substantively different if asked by a parent. (A parent would have more control, but ultimately the same ideas - teach typing, then teach word processing, then teach interface) apply.)
    – Joe
    Feb 11, 2015 at 3:36

IMHO it was more than a question about software.

Yes, it was bordering off-topic, because there was very little obvious constant "parenting" involved. But I am willing to accept the good intentions of someone, who, after this initial question, might even be tempted to follow up on his first help towards the teen.

We have accepted other questions (like this and this), that deal with similar questions, but on a technically more advanced level.

But most important: What I essentially read in the question discussed here, is an attempt to help a young man from underpriviledged circumstances to get a head start in his society. And OP has choosen a reasonable / feasible approach - so clearly a "parenting" situation.

  • I felt for the kid, too. I wanted to help the person. Which is why I looked for a site where this might be on topic. It's fine if you want this kind of question acceptable on Parenting.SE. (I think the two questions you cited were better.) But I think it will broaden the base and dilute our content. Is this acceptable? Because I think this is the question I am asking. Feb 11, 2015 at 3:49
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    @anongoodnurse The barrier that has kept this site from graduating all this time has primarily been an insufficient base of regular users. I don't think broadening our base is a problem, but then again, people who aren't actually acting as parents on a regular basis are unlikely to contribute as regular users, so neither is encouraging such questions likely to solve any problems.
    – user420
    Feb 11, 2015 at 14:10

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