The Internet has allowed us to access information and communicate globally due to its unstoppable developments. With the Internet, everything becomes easy and simple to access. According to Children Trends Databank, “the rate of internet usage has increased continuously over the past few years because of those advancements and benefits. In 2010, almost six out of ten children ages three to seventeen used the Internet at home (57 percent), nearly three times as many as in 1997 (22 percent). Eighty-five percent had access to a computer at home, up from 15 percent in 1984” (Children Databank 1).
However, everything has two sides, the Internet also has some negative impact on users, especially on children. The Internet carries a wide range of information, and that information online keeps growing exponentially. It becomes uncontrollable, which causes harm to children if they are not directed to use it correctly or without parental guidance. It is conspicuous that children are easily influenced. As a result, the exposure to Internet, content that is inappropriate, strongly affects the children’s minds in a negative way. In fact, the overexposure to Internet usage can alter children’s development.
From a data that was collected by Professor Angeline Khoo, in Perth, Australia, 93 percent of children, varied from ten to seventeen years old use Internet frequently for multi purposes, (Khoo 1). Jacquelynne S. Eccles, a professor of psychology, education at the University of Michigan, has done a study which found that the age between ten and seventeen are a time of important development. During this developing age, 1 Nguyen 2 children start to form their sense of identity. During these years, children’s’ bodies and minds are transformed by the biological and cognitive changes (Eccles 1).
Their development is dramatically influenced as they enter school, interact with peers, adults not in the family. Nowadays, children are allowed to use Internet at a very young age, this even increases the risk of Internet more than before. According to a research done by the National Centre for Education Statistic in 2003, “about three- quarters of 5-year-olds use computers, and over 90 percent of teens (ages 13-17) do so. About 25 percent of 5-year-olds use the Internet, and this number rises to over 50 percent by age 9 and to at least 75 percent by ages 15-17” (Debell 5).
Since Internet has always been one of the most important communication tool, it’s highly favored by children as they start to step into the adulthood. Also, due to the fast-growing technology, children tend to prefer Internet to other old-based methods such as books or telephones. In accordance with CNN, when the children reach two years old, more than 90 percent of them have an online history. Moreover, when they are five, 50 percent of them interact with a computer or other devices regularly (Clinton 1).
Besides the massive amount of information online, children are also attracted by other aspects like online game, social networks such as Facebook, Twitter and others. These attractions on Internet even contribute more to the concerns of the parents about their children’s Internet usage. “The Internet has some positive aspects but there are also negative aspects to the information highway. There is now some concern from Nguyen 3 educators and psychologist about the impact of the Internet on the physical, cognitive, and social development of children” (“Child Development” 1).
In fact, most children with a heavy use of Internet tend to isolate themselves from the surrounding environment. Apparently, as children spend more time with the internet, they spend less time in physical activities. The Telegraph has prompted an article, which states that children spend more than seven hours online nowadays, means using one third of their day for online activities. According to researchers at the Stanford Institute of the Quantitative Study of Society (SIQSS), “compared to those who do not use the Internet frequently, those who do—31 percent of the U. S. opulation, according to the study—spend a whopping 70 minutes less daily interacting with family, 25 minutes less sleeping and 30 minutes less watching television” (Dixon 1). The social networking sites reduce the levels on contacts in person. In reality, these sites keep the children apart from many essentials for their physical and mental development. This lack of personal interaction leaves serious damages to children’s growth. For example, there are kids that have problems getting themselves along with their peers. They hardly understand their social meaning, unable to read nonverbal cues, resolve an arising social conflict.
Once the children get used to the constant use of Internet, they start to build up their own shells, playing with the computer is preferred to hanging out with their peers. Commonly, the isolation from society in a long period of time can lead to the feeling of deprivation. Nguyen 4 Many health issues are caused by the overuse of Internet. The most popular health issues are obesity, myopia, depression. In 2010, one third of the children were overweight, the percentage increased from 7 percent to 18 percent (“Disease Control and Prevention”).
The obesity leaves both immediate and long-term effects on health and well-being. Another highly concerned health issue caused by heavy internet using is myopia. Nowadays, approximately 60% of children have defective vision (“Boston Hospital”). The contribute factor to myopia is when children have to focus on fine details of an object for a long period of time. By engaging in too much of internet activities, more and more children need to visit the optometrist at a very young age. Similarly to the two issues above, being depressed is very popular among this age.
A study was done in 1998, by a psychologists, Robert C. Rodgers, shows that significant levels of depression are associated with long internet use. Children who experience depression can form inappropriate behaviors, lack of self confidence, self-mutilation or even committing suicide (Rodgers 3). As mentioned previously, internet carries a wide range of information. It can provide many useful tools for children. Its values can be accounted for entertainment, education and other rewards. Unfortunately, these advantages cannot remove the disadvantages, using the internet involves with risks and dangers.
For most of the time, the inappropriate content is not filtered before it reaches to children. In this range of age, children easily get curious and are exposed to all types of content from online internet. Many of them are Nguyen 5 not suitable for this young age. Pornography, violence, hate speeches are visible and unmanageable on the Internet. From a research done by Princeton University, children who are exposed to violence can result in regressive symptoms such as increased bedwetting, have trouble developing language and many related anxiety (Osofsky 2).
These symptoms can affect children’s ability to acquire friends or fitting themselves into a group of other children. Nowadays, children can access to internet from their cell phones, mobile devices such as tablets, Ipad, Ipod. The improvements of these devices even help the Internet to be more far-reaching. According to one national survey, it has found that 25 percent of its participants whose ages are from 10 to 17 had experienced unwanted online exposure to pornography in the past year.
Being exposed to pornography in their early stage can negatively affect their healthy development and change their ways in forming the desire relationships. For example, in a peer group, an individual who gets infected by pornography can carry an increased level of physical and verbal sexually harassment towards others and influence their peers. As stated in a research at National Coalition to Prevent Child Sexual Abuse, “Their language and frame sexuality to how and why they pierce certain body parts to what they expect to give and receive in an intimate relationship…. fter all, how bad can it be if the larger culture around you finds abusive and demeaning acts a turn on” (Manning 2). Children’s development should be nurtured in a secure and peaceful environment. When the environment around the children is infected by violence and other unsuitable contents, the perception of children can be negatively affected. Since the Internet has Nguyen 6 had no right to control what is on it, everyone can freely create biased news, blogs. This false information starts to build up in children’s innocent mind and change the way they view about the society.
For example, some adults do bad things such as smoking or drinking and post what they do on a social networking site. When children see that, they think it is the right thing to do. Therefore, they start to have a false standard about life due to those distorted images. Furthermore, there are organizations, groups about religious and politics that give misleading information of what they are doing and their purposes. “Unlike similar information found in newspapers or television broadcasts, information available on the Internet is not regulated for quality or accuracy; therefore, it is particularly mportant for the individual Internet user to evaluate the resource or information. “Keep in mind that almost anyone can publish anything they wish on the Web” (“Georgetown University” 1). For example, a Buddhist may spread out ideas that are untruthful about Catholic religion in order to gain better recognition and attract more followers to Buddhism. These acts mislead the children’s thinking and distort the reality. It creates a false point of view on religious for children who are too young, not experienced enough to distinguish the right thing from the wrong thing.
Moreover, the Internet also has an impact on another major issue of the society, politics. For example, it carries biased information, creates conflicts for children from different parties and makes them to believe the untrue things of the other part. In order to help the children to avoid these bad effects, parents should stay involved with the technology and know what their kids do when they use Internet. However, the Nguyen 7 most important thing is that parents should be able to explain and teach their children what is real and what is not in life.
Parents should share reliable sources and website for their children and encourage their children to share their favorite websites. By this method, parents can always keep track of what their children are learning and get involved when necessary. In addition, the computer should be placed in areas where parents can always keep an eye on the children, make sure that the internet usage is always supervised. Limited hours of Internet using and websites can also help to protect children from harmful sources as they leave huge negative impacts on children’s development (“Negative Effects” 1).
The dramatically increased number of internet users has created an incredible huge amount of information in different categories, causes several harms for users, especially children who are at the age of developing their characters. The Internet creates a gap between the reality and the unreal world for children, leave them confused when they grow up and step into the real world. The false ideas and unfiltered information have an extremely serious impact on the growing of children and change their innocent views. The Internet results in harms and dangers for the development of children, both physically and mentally.