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Room for Debate
A lot or a little?
The parents' guide to what's in this website.
What parents need to know
Parents need to know that Room for Debate is created by the New York Times and is full of hot topics debated by different individuals. Each offers an expert opinion of the topic, and people can type comments. The comments are moderated Monday through Friday, and both users of the site and the New York Times staff choose their favorites, which can be explored by users. The site offers interesting perspectives on topics that will make kids think about or rethink the way they see things.
- Parents say
- Kids say
What's it about?
ROOM FOR DEBATE is the New York Times' opinion site where knowledgeable outsiders share perspectives on news events. The site's home page displays several recent posts from the site's "panelists," and users can explore all public posts via the navigation at the top of the page. Users can then comment on the issues raised in these essays. Responses appear in two columns -- for and against -- below the topic's description. Users can also create a free account using an email address or a social media account (Twitter, Facebook, or Google accounts all work). Readers then can submit their own Debates or Discussions, tag them with a category from the premade list, add an image, add other tags to offer further description, and then add "panelists" for the conversation.
Is it any good?
There are some debates and some content started already on this discussion site, but their accuracy and impact are pretty limited. There are pockets of content that are strong; for example, there's some good content on Haiti that brings up issues kids might not have considered, and there are some (highly technical) questions about Web development that might appeal to some more tech-minded types.
That being said, there's really not a lot here, and there aren't good safeguards in place (such as dedicated moderators) to prevent debates and discussions from devolving into the same flame wars you might find in comment sections or on social media elsewhere. Further, the panelists on the site's premade content have limited authority and don't make especially compelling arguments; few cite credible sources or offer cogent arguments, and they don't offer models that kids or adults should emulate. Additionally, the debates and discussions that include back-and-forths are a little tough to read; it's hard to tell visually which post responds to which. Further, the image-search feature brings up some iffy content when you create your own debates and discussions, making this a questionable resource for the classroom. Overall, this is a great concept for a site, but look elsewhere for a rich experience to support kids' developing debating skills.
Talk to your kids about ...
- Subjects: Language & Reading: forming arguments, reading, text analysis
Social Studies: the economy
- Skills: Thinking & Reasoning: analyzing evidence, applying information, asking questions, deduction, investigation, thinking critically
Creativity: combining knowledge
Communication: asking questions
Tech Skills: evaluating media messages
- Genre: Educational
- Pricing structure: Free
For kids who love debates
Our editors recommend
Common Sense Media's unbiased ratings are created by expert reviewers and aren't influenced by the product's creators or by any of our funders, affiliates, or partners.