The Internet and computing technology have revolutionized the world in an unprecedented manner. Everything is becoming virtual and moving online, even our children! In the past, kids would get involved physically almost all day long in a game. But today’s kids are far more interested in spending time web-surfing. This made parents, sociologists, and psychologists wonder if this has a negative effect on the children, and if so, what can be done about it! This article will tackle some related researches and their findings.
Effects of the Internet on Children:
The internet has a plethora of effects on children. Some of these effects are pretty positive, but many others are extremely negative and dangerous. Let’s take a look at each group of the effects.
Negative Internet Effects on Children:
- Short Attention Span: according to a study published by The Journal of Psychiatry in 2016, the internet shortens children’s focus span. This is because it gives them access to a lot of information in a short period of time. Think about TikTok, for instance; children will watch at least dozens of different topic videos in five minutes! This makes the mind dispersed rather than focused, lost rather than directed.
- Instant Gratification: another study about social media use among children relates social media use with children’s decisions. The study suggests that children who spend more time on social media are more likely to sacrifice worthy long-term results for momentary instant gratification. And according to the famous marshmallow test, children who sacrifice long-term results for instant gratification are less likely to have a college degree and have a successful career in the future.
- Exposure to Unwanted Content: companies online develop algorithms that try to keep users online for as long as possible. This made many giants like Alphabet and Facebook develop algorithms that suggest popular content to users who didn’t see that piece of content. In her Ted Talk, Dr. Sonia Livingstone argues that these algorithms have exposed children to violent, sexual, and exotic content. As a result, the world becomes a shocking and strange place in the children’s map of meaning.
Positive Internet Effects on Children:
- Online Video Games can Be Improve Reading Performance: Yes, you just read that! A study about the effect internet and video games use on children’s academic performance were conducted on children and adolescents in Australia shows that students who use the internet less than two hours a day and less than four hours a week do better at numeracy and reading, while 16% of children who played electronic games are far more likely to do good at reading than their mates.
- Endless Source of Useful Information: internet gives children access to information faster than ever before. Even great tutors and speakers that people traveled for days to see in the past, cyber-natives have access to them quickly via Youtube and other platforms.
How to Keep Children Internet Use as a Healthy Habit:
Internet use is no different than smoking or drinking. Once your child starts surfing online, his brain releases a huge dose of dopamine. If you don’t know the latter, it’s a neurotransmitter that feels so good, and it’s extremely addictive. This neurotransmitter is also released when people smoke or drink alcohol. It is the reason why people love doing these things. They’re not addicted to the cigarette itself; they’re actually addicted to the dose of dopamine that burns in their veins when they smoke! So, internet usage is not different than drinking.
Accordingly, children should be taught when it’s enough. This could be established by making them perceive the internet and video games as a reward rather than a goal. That is to say; they should learn to play their favorite game and e-socialize only when they’ve finished their homework or cleaned their room. And of course, they should use their devices for a reasonable period of time.
Another key determiner of how long children will use the internet is their home environment. A study was conducted by the Japanese National Institute for Youth Education in 2017 involved 2067 children who investigated the relationship between home environment and long hours of internet use by elementary school children. The study found that children whose parents use the internet often, and children who have their own devices, spend more than 3 hours a day online! The study then suggests rationalizing internet usage by parents and old family members in front of youngsters and children.
The internet is addictive because it encourages the brain to release dopamine. This addiction results in shortening children’s focus span and makes them interested in shortcuts rather than enjoying the process. As a result, children become less likely to succeed in the future. Rational internet use and awareness about these things by the parents is essential to deal with this problem.