The Internet provides immense possibilities for education and knowledge gaining and sharing for children. It provides a stepping-stone for the children to look into the world on their own, and find new information. However, this tool is often misused as a medium for transferring information and content to children that are ill suited for their age. Should internet be accessible to users of all age? A pertinent question, but the answer is not simple. It can be both valuable and detrimental. Therefore, the strategy in using the Internet and letting children use it has been under debate for long. This paper evaluates the positive and negative side of the Internet. Internet, therefore, assumes the forms of a two-sided spoke that can be both useful and dangerous. In this connection, the paper discusses the pros and cons of using internet, especially for children.
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The number of children and adolescents using the Internet has increased significantly. Research shows that it “9 in 10 children and adolescents” use the Internet and medical specialists are troubled on the increased usage of the Internet has on adolescent heath (Ybarra et al., 2006, p.1170). It is believed that the Internet has become a source of concern as it affects adolescent health (Ybarra et al., 2006) and interests (Marsden, 2010). The health concerns and the uncontrolled range of adult content available in the Internet can be very harmful to the children. Undoubtedly, the Internet provides immense opportunity and significant ease to all to connect with friends and family, to gather information, to research, and do many other educational things. However, the drawback of the internet comes from the lack of administration in terms of content regulation in terms of accessibility. Children can just browse through the Internet and access all content that may be harmful to them in many ways. Apart from the affect of the content on the children, can become dangerous or be susceptible to bullying over the Internet (Ybarra et al., 2006). Cyber bullying is a phenomenon that has been affecting the health of many adolescents:
Data from the First Youth Internet Safety Survey (YISS -1) suggested that 6% of Internet users between the ages of 10 and 17 years had been targets of Internet harassment in the previous year, one third of whom reports feeling emotionally distresses because of the incident.” (Ybarra et al., 2006, p.1170)
Research shows that 9 percent of the children who used the Internet have faced harassment (Ybarra et al., 2006). Using the chat room or social networking or using Internet for instant messaging increases the chances of harassment those children may face. These harassments are not restricted to online harassments only, as they have been extended to physical harassment too. Research therefore shows that adolescents who used the Internet regularly for blogging, chatting, or other social networking activities had greater chance of being targets to online harassment (Ybarra et al., 2006): “Online activities that typically involve self-expression, specifically instant messaging, blogging, and visiting chat rooms, are associated with increased adds of reporting Internet harassment…” (Ybarra et al., 2006, p.1175)
However, research suggests that such harassment may have a high degree of emotional stress on the youth and she can become isolated by the event (Ybarra et al., 2006). Further, the research also suggests that preadolescents who faced harassment were more distressed than adolescents (Ybarra et al., 2006). Therefore, arises the need to monitor the Internet usage of the children. Parents traditionally had done this, but in many cases, children have an upper hand and find a way to visit their desired Internet destination. A new concept of ranking the website based on age, as is done for television or film content, has been started by a UK based company (Marsden, 2010). With websites ranked according to the age, parents will have a better understanding as to which sites to bloc. Further, this would also clarify what content is right for children at what age these are suitable for them to use. Therefore, even though the Internet may prove to be a dangerous instrument in hand of children, proper controlling can alter it into a very effective educational tool.
Marsden, R., 2010. Internet provider gives age ratings to the web (and Facebook’s a 12). The Independent, pp.1-2.
Ybarra, M.L., Mitchell, K.J., Wolak, J. & Finkelhor, J.D.D., 2006. Examining Characteristics and Associated Distress Related to Internet Harassment: Findings From the Second Youth Internet Safety Survey. Pediatrics, vol. 118, no. 4, pp.1169-77.
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