Children need parents, not PCs
Teaching responsibility cuts across both worlds - virtual or real: "You let them know there are elements on the Internet, just as in real life, that are bad and they should avoid them. There's bad information, bad pictures, people trying to encourage them to do harmful or hateful things. Software that tries to screen out inappropriate sites is helpful for this, but certainly far from perfect, as I've discovered when I've given some products a test run."
Emery advised parents to stick with educational programs as kids will eventually discover the arcade-styled games. "A parent should try to keep youngsters away from the vacuous products as long as they can," he said.
In contrast to Emery's more moderate stance, Healy remains skeptical of the educational benefit of current software programs. "This 'halo effect' faith -- that the computer is somehow automatically better than television -- is unjustified. If your child is watching too much TV, the first thing to do is start applying some limits rather than adding yet another excuse to tune you out!"
"It all boils down to the grown-ups in the home," rejoins Emery. "At this stage of technology, it's the time a parent spends interacting with a child, and the quality of
that interaction, that matters. That won't change until you have computer programs that can, in effect, act as a parent would. Until computers can read a child's moods, reward them for doing well and discourage them from errant behavior, they will be a poor substitute for parental involvement."
The synthesis of all these opinions is that the content inside your PC and, to a lesser extent, its physical interfaces will determine whether IT will be a boon or burden to your child. Ultimately however, there is no substitute for the quality time parents ought to share with their children.
Concludes Healy: "Slow down, turn off the media, and spend some time just being together for a while. "
Jay Chong is a technology journalist with ten years experience who hopes her two kids have a life beyond the digital screen.
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