There is a saying among the baby boomer generation, that if you want to learn how to use computers and the internet, go ask your grandchildren to teach you. An estimated 100% of all young people use computers with more than 90% regularly using the internet. Much of this internet use is tied to homework and websites needed to do research. However the internet is also the way most kids connect after school using social networks such as MySpace or Facebook. The kids communicate through chat rooms and emails, while also posting comments on their friends’ walls. Internet usage is so pervasive that many experts, scientists and psychologist have begun to study what effect it has on the lives of young people in general.
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With so much social action taking place from behind a computer screen, adults and teachers are concerned about the loss of social skills among young people. In other words, the ability to communicate up close and personal with friends and family is becoming extinct. Young people simply don’t know how to hold a conversation. Take away a kid’s cell phone or computer and they tend to withdraw, don’t know what to do with their hands, become sullen. Hours in front of a computer on the internet also lends to the obesity problem plaguing America and the rest of the world. And a lack of exercise isn’t the only physical problem. Eyesight wanes after long hours in front of a computer screen. Bad posture, and body pain can develop from long hours spent sitting, not the least of which is bad circulation in the legs. Many young people who spend a great of time in front of computer are beginning to show symptoms of disease and illness not usually seen until someone reaches middle age or senior citizenship.
There are also many upsides to time spent in front of a computer. Young people today are able to log on and talk to their counterparts growing up in other parts of the world. The internet literally opens up the possibilities of world culture them enabling them to understand and to appreciate diversity. Painfully shy people unable to hold a face to face conversations can go online and talk for hours with someone elsewhere in the world, who may be in a similar situation at home. The internet enables young people to find answers to questions that they may not feel comfortable discussing with their parents and friends and teachers. An example of this might be sex education, which is only given cursory attention in most American schools.
Some studies have even shown that young people who regularly use the computer have better reading skills, spatial skills and visual skills. The one drawback to being on the computer that it is done in isolation, away from the watchful eyes of parents. Some of the information accessed my not be good for young people. The younger mind may not be able to process the information correctly. Parents should keep a watchful eye without seeming to smother their growing child’s independence.
Like all things in life, the internet is a two edged sword, one edge good, the other edge bad. Parents should use internet access as a teaching tool, helping their youngsters to understand the duplicity involved in life in general including the internet and the world wide web.