Are Children Smarter Because of the Internet?
The advent of the Internet elicited both support and reservations almost in equal measure. The debate has gone a notch higher in particular over its use among children. The Internet can be regarded as an essential element in virtually all aspects of life and children have not been left out (Cho and Cheon, 2005; Jackson, Von Eye, Fitzgerald, Witt, and Zhao, 2011). Modern children and the adolescents represent the first generation that has grown surrounded by the Internet technology. This can be compared to the children of the 1920s and 1950s who grew up surrounded by the buzz of the radio and television respectively (Bremer, 2005).
In this era of advanced technology, it is almost mandatory that school going children acquire the knowledge on internet use because education curricula are quickly transforming towards technology use. Furthermore, with the widespread use of tech-related gadgets in almost all activities, such as mobile phones, play- stations and many others in day to day life, it seems embracing of technology is a foregone conclusion (Valkenburg & Soeters, 2003). This paper will aspire to explore the question on whether children are smarter or more socialized due to the Internet.
Internet Use among Children
The use of internet among children today is ranked in the same category with watching television or using the phone. In developed countries, up to 87% of children aged between twelve and seventeen are online. The internet is however better in comparison to the others due to the platform it offers to enhance interaction. According to a study conducted by Genevieve Marie Johnson (2010), it was found out that children were likely to use Internet more at school than at home. However, they enjoyed using the Internet at home more than at school (Johnson, 2010; Jackson, et al. 2007). Children perceive the use of Internet in a different perspective compared to adults (Sandvig, 2006). There is no doubt that the Internet has a significant influence on children (Boonaert and Vettenburg, 2011).
Impact of Internet Use
The Internet is used both at school and at home by children. At school, the children’s Internet use is governed by the children’s Internet Protection Act (Yan, 2006). The children’s use of Internet is associated with various risks despite being beneficial is some ways. Parents and guardians need to implement various strategies that favor co-use and interaction rules to children to reduce the risk associated with Internet use among children. However, these strategies were found to be less effective in limiting the risks (Livingstone and Helsper, 2008).
In a study conducted regarding the influence of the Internet on children from low income families, it was indicated that children who had access to the Internet recorded high scores compared to those who had limited access to the Internet. It was also found out that age did not have an impact on the performance of the children (Jackson, et al. 2006).
Another study conducted on the influence of Internet use by the children on family relationships and parental mediation established that parental recommendations on useful websites and co-using were positively associated with the frequency with children would engage in educative, online activities. Nevertheless, it was found that parental restrictions on time and websites did not impact on the actual Internet use by children (Lee and Chae, 2007). Children are difficult to tame when it comes to unsafe Internet use. It has been established that unsafe Internet use among children is likely to occur within the homes (Valcke, Schellens, Van Keer and Gerarts, 2007).
With the Internet, it is possible to form virtual relationships among various people. In a study that was conducted by Bonetti, Campbell and Gilmore (2010), it was revealed that children who were lonely engaged more in online communications than those who did not report being lonely. Through the Internet, such children are able to fulfill special needs in respect to social interactions, self exposure, and exploring their identity (Valkenburg and Soeters, 2001). In a study conducted among the Latino children in Los Angeles, it was observed that strict parental strategies limited children in respect to Internet use. Nevertheless, these children were able to pursue their own interests and motivations online though on a restricted level (Tripp, 2010).
The Internet has had far-reaching impacts on the society in general and children have not been spared. From the studies that have been conducted, it can be observed that though parents have been restrictive in allowing access of their children to the Internet, this has come with various challenges. The children have always had a way to access Internet and parents have been left with very little in controlling what the children access.
In general, this young generation seems to be inseparable with the internet. Much as some are opposed to internet use among children, the benefits accrued from its use surpass the negative impacts especially when used in controlled environments. Based on numerous studies by academics and social experts, it is clear that the use of internet has provided a chance for children to acquire a wide range of knowledge through easy access to information compared to the scenario in the past where information sources were quite limited. Internet also provides a perfect platform for children to gain vital communication skills that in turn enhance social development. Psychology experts have identified a link between constructive use of internet and student performance in school particularly in language expressivity. Children access information by visiting websites and this enhances their learning skills (Rocheleau, 1995). The internet also makes learning an enjoyable experience because most websites contain graphics that effectively capture children’s’ imagination and creativity. This is important in stimulating the functioning of their brains and transforming them into effective learners (Jackson, 2006).
The process of acquiring the information from the internet is also vital in a child’s developmental skills such as information evaluation, research techniques as well as work planning strategies. Children with prowess in internet gaming demonstrate better levels of visual memory and pattern recognition when compared to those who did not. This has a positive impact on their ability to interpret graphical data and enhanced diagram visualization and interpretation (Cho & Cheon, 2005).
From the data collected by Jennifer Bremmer from Chicago University; department of Child Psychiatry, up to 84% of parents interviewed, agreed that internet use has had a positive impact on their children’s school life and particularly in academics. Eighty one percent of the respondents said that their children acquired most of their information from the internet. Majority of those interviewed said they felt that without the internet their children would perform poorly. According to government budgetary allocations of the United States in 2000, $4 billion was dedicated for connecting students to internet, a clear indication of the government’s commitment towards use of technology in education (Valkenburg and Soeters, 2001).
The internet also gives access to more up-dated information compared to books, thus improving on the child’s vocabulary in the offered curriculum and in the research projects. The `One Child One Laptop` project in Africa is expected to give African children an opportunity to access world wide information and be able to effectively contribute their ideas on a world platform. This could also create a chance for them to earn a living as they mature since they can work on- line and link up with other people in the world (Jackson, 2006).
Based on the scientific background information on stimulation and response, it can be conclusively deduced that the use of internet by growing children has a positive effect on their development. The prolonged use of computer while searching for information from the internet could improve the coordination patterns of eye and hand through the use of the mouse, keyboard and screen. Though no specific research has been done on this phenomenon, it’s scientifically proven that habits enhance brain development and the associated physical development (Valkenburg and Soeters, 2001).
The use of internet also has a social dimension. Antagonists on internet use argue that it has replaced human interactions. On the other hand, the protagonists claim that with professional use, internet use can be a medium to enhance this interaction. The use of the chat rooms, email services and other communication platforms available on the internet, are believed to enhance social skills alongside communication skills. Social and culture exchanges among young children has been enhanced through the internet mailing facility and through the available social sites such as Face book and Twitter. Children get an opportunity to interact in educative and productive communication (Livingstone & Helsper, 2008).
A perfect example is the Spank Magazine, which gives a platform for world wide interactions on youth issues where any one can interact and communicate their ideas for free. Social studies analysts have shown that the use of internet by school going children in class work has a marked positive impact on their performance. This has been linked to the fun associated with learning using the internet. The use of internet also enhances cooperation and sharing of ideas among the children, a vital life skill. Studies have indicated improved performances in many pupils using internet as a learning tool, and who initially had difficulties in using the conventional learning models. This in turn, positively influences their attitude toward school works as among other reasons it gives the students a relatively independent environment for learning and interaction (Bremer, 2005).
The internet has become a tool of entertainment. Research on internet use has shown that many children use it as a leisure tool to pursue amusement and enjoyment. The family set ups today are more individualized and physical interactions among children mostly at home is limited to a certain extent. Such children resort to internet for companionship. Through the process of enjoying themselves, they are subconsciously benefiting by acquiring other skills such as analyzing skills, creative and critical thinking leading to improved understanding of concepts. Children are also molded socially by the Internet through listening to music, watching movies and documentaries, world news and any other entertainment features. This makes the children smarter on issues happening in the world and prepares them for more networking in the social world. Internet also provides children with physical impairment, an opportunity to find pleasure they may not acquire anywhere else due to their disabilities (Jackson, 2006).
From all these studies, it is clear that Internet can for sure make children smarter or more socialized. This is because with the Internet, children become direct learners. The added advantage of internet over other media is that it is interactive. The ease with which these children access information or answers to many questions is unparalleled. Research by social groups indicates improved academic performance among children who have access to internet in addition to improved confidence levels. The fun associated with using the internet has also seen more children acquire knowledge in a friendlier environment, in turn increasing their interest in school work and more developed reading skills. The use of internet should be encouraged as it offers a platform for connecting the world.
The children grow accepting different cultures and understanding their world better through the interaction platform offered by the internet. Encouraging statistics of the positive results accrued from using the internet have made many governments to shift focus and whole heartedly embrace the use of internet in the education sector. Finland has established a training program for her teachers on how to teach online with the Japanese government offers subsidized broadband facilities to 98% of its household. Such investments are informed by the impact internet has had particularly on children; the leaders of tomorrow.
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