Computer Basics for Kids

By Jeffrey Brian Airman

It is easy for kids to understand the basics of computers. There are five primary computer components and their related jobs that kids will grasp quickly and they will be excited and confident about continuing their computer education when they understand a computer's basic inner workings.

Central Processing Unit (CPU)

The central processing unit, abbreviated CPU, is often referred to as the "brains" of a computer. The CPU is responsible for carrying out instructions of the program that is running. A CPU is an electronic circuit board inside the computer tower that makes calculations and decisions based on the input it is given. Just like a human brain, it takes in large amounts of information, evaluates it based on value and outputs a response. Without a CPU no computing could be done.

Random-Access Memory (RAM)

The random-access memory, abbreviated RAM, is a computer circuit board that gives the CPU immediate access to current information. RAM can be thought of as the CPU's work desk. Information regarding current tasks is loaded into the RAM so that it can be accessed in any order. This is different from other forms of memory that store information so it can only be accessed in sequence. Computers may contain several chips of RAM inside the tower to give the CPU more space to handle multiple tasks.


The computer monitor is the screen on which computer activities are visually displayed. Having a screen much like a television, the monitor gives a computer user feedback about the processes and programs that are running. The monitor is usually considered an output device because it shows the results of CPU and RAM computing. An exception to this rule is the touch screen monitor which allows users to input information by swiping the screen with a finger.


The computer keyboard is an input device used to manually enter instructions for the CPU. Keyboards are a series of keys fashioned loosely after the design of a typewriter. The computer's keyboard is used for writing as well as basic computer control. Beyond the number and letter keys are a series of programmable function or F keys. These buttons can be preloaded with a series of instructions for the CPU.


The computer mouse, like the keyboard, is a device used to input information into the CPU. When the mouse is moved by the user's hand, a message is sent to the CPU to move an arrow symbol on the monitor's screen called a cursor. The cursor is a selector that is used to direct actions and make choices on the screen. The mouse has at least one button to select something that the cursor is pointing out and one other button that shows a list of other options when pressed.