Positive and negative effects of the Internet

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According to Internet World Stats, Internet use has grown by 444.8 per cent in the last 10 years, connecting people in every country in the world. It provides access to information and ideas almost instantly, on virtually any subject at little to no cost.

Overall, the Internet can improve human life and civilisation in many ways, but also has its downside.

Spread of ideas

When the printing press was first invented in 1451, more books were published, by more authors on more subjects, and were available to more people. The result was a cultural shift that impacted education, literacy, politics and religion for centuries to come. The Internet has that same potential but on a much larger scale. Hundreds of millions of people all over the world can now share their ideas, their stories and information they've gathered on a variety of subjects with the rest of the planet.

Access to information

All of this sharing of ideas means that information on any subject is accessible with an Internet connection. A student in New York, a scholar in London or an aid worker in a rural village in the third world can get rapid access to information on science, technology, engineering, agriculture, medicine and thousands of other topics. This information has the potential to improve lives and sometimes even save lives around the world by providing information on medical procedures and agricultural techniques.

Impact on children

A study involving the Internet's impact on children, "Technology Integration into Early Childhood Curricula: Where We've Been, Where We Are, Where We Should Go," by Patsy L. Pierce, shows that it can have an impact on their physical development by limiting their real-world, hands-on experiences. It can also impact their cognitive development because the information on the Internet can be unreliable and many children do not understand how to verify information. The Internet can affect their social development by limiting their face-to-face interactions with others. According to iSafe, 42 per cent of children surveyed also report incidents of online harassment or cyberbullying.

Internet addiction

Most of the problems related to the Internet involve people spending too much time online. Considerable debate on Internet addiction exists in psychological circles. According to psychologist John M. Grohol in a Psych Central website report titled "Internet Addiction Guide," Internet addiction could be a sign of another mental disorder, such as depression, or of anxiety disorders and an attempt to escape from dealing with problems. Whatever the reason, as much as 1 per cent of the UK population has a problem spending an unhealthy amount of time online, according to Marlene Busco of Medscape. Whatever the cause, individuals who find that excessive Internet use is interfering with other aspects of their lives are urged to talk to a mental health professional.