Learn your ABCs or PCs?
Some educators agree that young children are better off learning the alphabet, or their Ps & Qs, or just having plain fun than being in front of a PC.
"Toddlers initial learning should not be so technology-centric," said Pauline Yap, a nursery school teacher at Hampstead Hill School in London. "They need to learn some basic manners, pencil control and even reading before being exposed to the myriad of software on the computer or the Internet.
"If they don't learn to read properly, then they will never appreciate the art of reading through books, much less the computer screen," argued Yap, who has been teaching nursery school for the last 10 years.
Children at Hampstead Hill School are given PC familiarity sessions from age four onwards for 20 minutes a week, but they are not compulsory as the school emphasizes mastering reading, writing and social skills. "We want them to enjoy the simple things in life, fuel their curiosity and groom their observation skills," she said.
On the other hand, Brenda Hafer, senior community manager at ParentSoup.com holds the opposite view and counters that it is never too early to expose a child to computers. "This is less a words issue than it is an equipment issue. They know how to open a refrigerator before they can cook, right?" she said.
Hafer suggests that children should be exposed to technology from as early as 18 months. "By exposing them early, it would simply normalize technology. I find no rationale behind keeping kids away," she said.
She concedes, however, that adult supervision is necessary and should be total and direct initially. "As the child becomes more capable, the parent can begin to move away."
Hafer also agrees that all PC and no play may make Jack a dull boy. "Parents need to be proactive in ensuring balance is maintained between physical activity and technology."
Rachel Lim , Principal at Kinderland Ipoh said that four to six-year-old children in her kindergarten always look forward to computer classes. "The interaction between the kids and computers is amazing, they enjoy it very much and constantly ask for more time with computers," she said.
At Kinderland, computers are used to complement the language lessons conducted
in the classroom. Lim said that the kids are quick to learn and eager to move onto new programs once they are bored with what they are using.