baby playing with notebookFrom as young as 2 years old, tiny tots in Singapore are getting a head-start in computer literacy via child-friendly games such as Pyramids of Giza or Toddler Teaser. By the time they hit primary school, many of them will have been exposed to the world of YouTube, online gaming, and even social networking sites like Facebook and MSN chat.

On the other extreme, some parents restrict their children from watching television, and prohibit them from using the computer at all. Proponents of this approach assert that it is too early and dangerous to introduce kids to technology and the internet.

Yet, with a growing percentage of our young ones being introduced to cyberspace, is it a matter of jumping onto the bandwagon or bucking the trend?

We can’t answer that question for you, but here are some different aspects you should consider:

Point #1: There are a plethora of educational games, teaching aids and iPhone apps out there, ideal for making learning fun! Phonetics, number crunching and a wealth of scientific facts are, quite literally, there at the tip of Junior’s finger tips – and don’t we all want to encourage our children to expand their minds?

Point #2: It prepares Junior for school. These days, most primary schools are well-equipped with computer labs, and schoolchildren are often expected to use the internet to do research for various projects.

Point #3: While Junior is building neural connections and improving hand-eye coordination, Dad and Mum get some time off, to do the housework, shop or just relax. As parents, we all can appreciate the value of some precious time-out.

Point #4: Educators and counsellors cite too much time online and lack of face-to-face interaction with their family and peers as a growing concern. Our children may master the mouse or stylus at the expense of developing real bonds and relationships with loved ones, which is a crucial aspect of early childhood development.

Point #5: There are several potential physical repercussions to spending too much time on the computer. Myopia ad obesity are affecting more of our young today, thanks to extended periods fixated on computer games and not enough time running around outdoors. What’s more, muscle strain issues, such as tendinitis and carpal tunnel, are becoming more commonplace too.

Point #6: Even young kids can develop online-addictions, and this is something the National Crime Prevention Council (NCPC) recognizes. While the NCPC has organized cyber wellness talks for primary school children that discuss topics like addictions and online security, parents need to be vigilant and proactive in being the primary gatekeepers and educators for their little ones, and being informed enough to take the necessary precautions.

When and how you introduce Junior to iAnything is completely up to you, but there is no harm in waiting till the child goes to primary school, and even then, it’s prudent to always monitor your child’s usage and safety. Technology is great, but ultimately there’s no substitute for real human presence and experience.

By Dorothea Chow