If there’s one thing I love, it’s a good debate but to really develop an interesting conversation, a great topic is essential. As a mother, I have a lot of opinions when it comes to parenting and recently I learned about a fun new debate and discussion site that’s full of great topics called Discuss. Essentially, users can post a 100-character statement and then other contributors chime in with their opinions. What I love about this site is how many different topics it covers, and when this statement caught my eye, I couldn’t help but think about all the possible responses: Kids shouldn’t learn to use tech before they can read.
Initially, I have to admit that I leaned towards agreeing with this statement. After all, the Canadian Pediatric Society recommends that children under two have no screen time at all and that those between two and four years of age have no more than an hour of screen time. In fact, the studies of Dr. Gary Small, Director of the UCLA Memory and Aging Research Center, show how children’s brains today, specifically the frontal lobe, are developing differently than their parents’ due to technology exposure.
As if that wasn’t frightening enough, a study by Bristol University in 2010 found that too much time in front of a screen increases the chances of children developing physiological difficulties too. With such potentially negative consequences, why would anyone want to take the risk of exposing their child to technology too early?
But on the other hand, technology is an integral part of our life now. And the defining feature in all of the studies that have been done currently is that they focus on frequency. Parental supervision and limitations are the true determining factor in whether technology is helpful or harmful to children. And with proper limitations, a device can help teach children pre-reading skills as well as teaching them how to competently use technology.
So while I fully agree with the Canadian Pediatric Society’s opinion that children under two should have no screen time whatsoever, I do think that screen time for children over two, when used properly, can be beneficial to children even before they know how to read. The key is balance and as long as children are being given the chance to explore all the other aspects of their physical world, then allowing them a small amount of time to explore virtually can be a positive thing too.
It took me awhile to realize that I disagreed with the statement above but once I thought it through, I was clear about where I stood. And that’s exactly why I love discussion sites like this so much. Not only do they give me a chance to share my own opinions, they get me thinking about why I have those opinions and clarifying them internally. It’s what makes discussion and debate, when done respectfully, such a positive and valuable aspect of our society.