Advantages & disadvantages of the internet & children

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Advantages & disadvantages of the internet & children
The computer and Web access on popular phones have opened up the Internet to modern families. (Jupiterimages/Comstock/Getty Images)

The accessibility of the Internet has opened the world to modern children by stripping away geographical barriers and sharing information instantaneously. Social networks like Twitter inform the masses of breaking news, and allow public figures like celebrities and politicians to connect more personally and safely with the public, no matter where they are in the world. Because of this, schools and educators include the Internet as a teaching resource, and children are drawn to be a part of this new limitless environment. However, there are distinct dangers involved with impressionable children and unfiltered information from the Internet, as well as exposure to the nameless, faceless strangers that can easily access them.

Stranger Danger

A benefit of opening the world to your child via the Internet is that she gets to know other people from around the world, which opens her up to other cultures and even other languages. The flip side of that coin is that the anonymity of the Internet allows unscrupulous and dangerous individuals to infiltrate your child's life and encourage or facilitate dangerous behaviour. This influence can be deadly. In 2002 13-year-old Christina Long was murdered by a married man she met from the Internet. It was ultimately uncovered she had been leading a secret life through a provocative online identity, despite maintaining respectable real-life activities.

A Worldwide Classroom

The Internet benefits the classroom by providing teachers and students instant access to information, but it also allows the teacher freedom to choose his teaching style with individual students, who benefit more with personalised instruction. Classes can also connect with other teachers and other schools via the Internet. Internet access opens the lines of communication between the educators and their students, as well as parents and guardians, who can keep up with student progress through school websites. It also teaches the skills needed in a modern working world where Internet access often connects large companies with their employees.

Friends and Bullies

Social networking websites allow your child to connect with his classmates, and widen his circle of friends by introducing new people with similar interests. The downside to this means children have more access to those who bring a bullying concept to the Internet age. Cyberbullies harass their victims from behind the safety of technology, using social networks, e-mails and text messages to ridicule and intimidate. A cyberbullying study performed by Sameer Hinduja, Ph.D. and Justin W. Patchin, Ph.D. in 2010 found that those kids who had been exposed to cyberbullying were twice as likely to consider suicide than those children who had not.

An Ounce of Prevention

Because the benefits of the Internet go hand in hand with serious risks for your kids, it is imperative that you be especially vigilant in the access you allow, and the supervision in how it is used. Instead of allowing a personal computer in the rooms of your children, have a universal computer in a community area shared by the family. Use parental access to restrict websites that are not age-appropriate. Be watchful for changes in your child's behaviour for any signs of withdrawal, sullen or depressed moods and increased secretiveness. Most of all, talk to your kids. Keep the lines of communication open and be involved in their interests, and let them know how "stranger danger" and bullying correspond online.

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