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A Lot or a Little?
What you will—and won't—find in this website.
Kids can learn from a great deal of debatable topics, particularly ones that teens may not be completely familiar with, such as "The A.D.A. 25 Years Later" or "Racist Symbols to Reconsider." The depth at which these topics are covered is wonderful, as opinions are shared from all sides and allow teens to think outside their own minds and perspectives and agree with, go against, or empathize with others. Other than reading about the different opinions, teens won't take much more of an active role, so discussion with a parent, teacher, or other adult may be helpful. For kids interested in learning about many topics that shape or constantly plague society, Room for Debate could be an excellent resource to fulfill their curiosity.
Since site is based on debatable topics, there are going to be all sorts of sides to each topic, some positive, others quite negative, with people playing devil's advocate.
Positive Role Models
Some contributors are noteworthy writers; kids may be interested in reading more of what they have to say.
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.
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.
Did we miss something on diversity?
Research shows a connection between kids' healthy self-esteem and positive portrayals in media. That's why we've added a new "Diverse Representations" section to our reviews that will be rolling out on an ongoing basis. You can help us help kids by suggesting a diversity update.