Advertisement

The Internet for kids

March 11, 1999

Does it make sense to give children in day-care centers Internet access? Pennsylvania's Gov. Tom Ridge says yes, because it will put them on a level playing field with children from more affluent families who own home computers.

State Sen. Mary Jo White, R-Franklin, says it's a "dreadful idea" because pre-schoolers can't read, which means they couldn't effectively use the Internet. We'd side with White, if day-care centers served only pre-school-aged children. But they serve older kids, too. For that and other reasons - the $1.6 million cost is cheap to serve 4,000 centers - we back it.

Ridge's program, called CyberStart, was announced during the governor's Feb. 2 budget talk. It would promote Internet use by children by giving their day care centers access to cyberspace.

Sen. White's criticism is well-meant, but mistaken, because there are many opportunities for children who are not pre-schoolers to get involved in day care. In Pittsburgh and Philadelphia, for example, one entrepreneur has opened a chain of centers that caters to parents who've recently come off the welfare rolls. Many of these parents work second-shift, which means they could have children who are old enough to read, but not to take care of themselves at home.

Advertisement

And what about those school holidays on which parents have to work? The moms and dads we know rely on day-care centers to fill that gap, so they can head for the workplace knowing that their children are in good hands.

Despite what seems like the obvious benefit of providing children whose parents can't afford one with access to a computer, some Ridge administration officials conceded that the idea hasn't been a hit with every budget panel that's heard it.

All right, then, rather than killing the thing outright, we propose this compromise: Put a one-year sunset clause on the proposal. If the benefits aren't obvious after a year, it's probably not the good idea we believe it is, and the legislature can kill it. But first give it a chance.

The Herald-Mail Articles
|
|
|