HELP: My Child is a Victim of a Disorganized Digital Desktop!


Does your child’s computer desktop have random folders and loose documents scattered over the screen?  Ever encounter a situation in which your son or daughter is trying to complete homework but cannot find it on his or her chic (and expensive…) iPad or laptop?

Although tablets and laptops can ease the flow of hardcopy papers, which in itself can improve organization to some degree, they cannot solve all our clutter and disorganization problems.

Students who come by organization innately typically have a neat backpack, binder, and digital desktop.  This article is not for those students.  Instead, it’s for those who struggle with the essential executive functioning skill of organization in almost every part of their life, including digital files.

So, how can you help fight digital disorganization? Here are a few ideas that just might work in your family.


Rule 1: Open the Dialogue

Sit down with your child and open the dialogue. Ask her how she might organize her electronic papers this year.  Would she like to use an online resource such as Dropbox, Evernote, or Google Drive?  If so, terrific!  These programs allow students to save files to the cloud, so that they can access them anywhere and at anytime, as long as there’s a Wi-Fi connection.


Rule 2: Create a “One Subject, One Folder” System

At times, documents will need to be saved to your child’s desktop, and herein lies the problem. Many students tend to just place individual files—PowerPoint presentations, word documents with assignment instructions, and anything else—on the desktop, arranged in no logical way.  This makes it inefficient, if not impossible, to locate important files in a pinch.

With your child, create a folder for each school subject. Even extracurricular activities like band or swim club that have affiliated assignments, schedules, or contact lists ought to get their own folder and be treated like a distinct subject.


Rule 3: Cluster Your Apps and Programs

Applications and school-related folders should function like oil and water—no mixing!  Keep all apps, such as Skype Dropbox, on the opposite side of the screen from school-related folders.  Check out this article for a step-by-step approach on how to implement this practice.


Rule 4: Make Shortcuts for Important Documents, NOT Copies.

One of the issues students face when keeping local and cloud-based documents is that they often have many different versions of the same thing. It’s not uncommon to end up with multiple versions of the same file without knowing which is the most up to date. If you’ve ever had multiple files each labeled something like “draft,” “final,” FINAL,” “FINAL FINAL,” you know what I’m talking about.

Consider showing your child how to make shortcuts to documents instead of placing copies of documents he wants quick access to on his desktop, only to end up with a puzzle of a problem.

If your student is a PC user with Microsoft Office, check out this article to learn how to make shortcuts or pin documents to the task bar.  And for Mac users, here is a reference on how to do the same thing, or in Mac language, how to create an alias.


Rule 5: Get Your Child on Board

Make it an exercise in taking turns. First, let them be the expert and ask them to teach you something about the computer (we always have things to learn about technology from our kids!).  Second, share with them an organization tip and encourage them to practice it when school starts.

Giving your children some freedom regarding the specific spatial configuration of their desktop apps and files—which apps are neighbors, etc—and the overall aesthetic (even if you hate their background, they may love it, and that’s what counts) will make them feel like the desktop is truly their own.  More often than not, having a sense of ownership over something usually translates into taking better care of keeping it organized and usable.

If Educational Connections can be of assistance helping your child prepare for the school year, either with a brush up of content or learning organization and executive functioning skills, please send Erin an email at [email protected] to inquire about a tutor or educational coach.