Adverse Effects of the Internet on Child Development

Quela Thomas + Courtney KernR. Dusseault 5:30 MW22 March 2017

Technology, undeniably, integrated itself into most parts of life as it is known today. Humans, with this new-age technology, developed a new way of living. The world changed from one of curiosity and exploration, to one of short cuts, with the ability to instantly access information. In the middle of this technological revolution, a wealth of knowledge presents itself today with a tap of a button. The modern Internet, also known as “network of networks”, took form in the 1990’s, and has since become a major factor in everyday life. Approximately forty percent of the world currently connects to cyberspace (a dramatic increase from the one percent circa 1995). Participation with technology ranges between all ages, ranging from age five to age ninety-five. As of 2017, there are over 3,750,000,000 internet users and counting…

external image Slide007.png

external image gQbLCmrLAMughPjo_3fbhHjkV0ZT_62CNNWwIcJBb7e9ta2ItEAmkeprAxbl_EXzcdMXr9Fmfdft-R-vAwvpU9IWRBlrwHWKpIaD1eKy0-VaD9g_VdSdDlCJ1VBZGjOwXk7M_8Ir


external image MeRmZs9jUBoogG-VGyO28kt0qmIXDQt1b4w80KPZUS-rf7Au4hULLd3D8QzT7nqoHg38SQHOh4CXQeg0uOXc29dML08ElARcsZvSj_JjGFQyUNaoDR0W8zdDzT2BUx5csp7DwIHmThe current time period integrates technology into all processes. Though its presence eventually saturated daily interactions, the dependence on technology developed only somewhat recently. A generation exists now exposed to technology since birth, and with this phenomenon in mind, this article aims to examine the influence of technology, and more specifically the internet, on developmental psychology in children.

According to Piaget’s theory of childhood development, children’s decision making processes and ability to formulate opinions are most malleable in the concrete functional stage of life, beginning around age seven. By examining aspects of development such as exposure to foreign stimuli, cognitive functions, and social skills, the action of assessing the direct influence of the internet on a child’s mind simplifies. The question then arises: Can the internet impact a child's development positively, negatively, or at all?

external image 2w_l1kL4_-Iu2J9VhzOCBxh627hiACw7YPaDX_daDWwj2yf0Qd1bTsaakoyvuYBLN337sWp1XGYhJlWRncIYl-HhoA5cuQ54Zp4DO5O5y43t5cKaBm8xjqmEhTdQL9lBlBgFn-Tf
Investigating the impact on development, one must be familiar with the child’s access to the internet. Study shows that children start using technology and the internet around an average age of three years old. This exposure may come from playing games on an iPad or watching distracting videos on their parents’ phones.

This “information superhighway”, while being an amazing resource, can also be a detrimental place for a child. While the general open nature of the internet is inviting and exciting, a child’s safety could be at risk due to the lack of parental advisory and censorship. In a study referencing inappropriate content, more than half of the participants reported accidentally accessing inappropriate content online; one in eleven admitted looking for it deliberately. Twenty five percent reported accessing eating disorder sites, and twenty percent reported looking at self harming websites. More than one in ten admitted viewing suicide sites and child abuse images (CITE).

external image i-took-the-internet-addiction-quiz-and-i-won-371-body-image-1421884358.jpg
Looking into the effects of the internet on cognitive functions in child development, the opinions of scholars are split. Some text, such as this article, argue the positive influences of the internet on development, stating “Internet is a powerful tool that revolutionized our children’s learning, communication, and play”. The article continues speaking to the positive effects, referencing children’s increased motor skill, muscle control, and hand eye coordination due to interaction with computers and smart devices. Memory, spatial/logical problem solving, and abstract thinking are also referenced in this article, pointing to the internet as a conduit for further and more rapid development of the mind at a young age.

Others have an opposite stance, believing their research has been linked to limited attention span, lower comprehension, poor focus, greater risk for depression and diminished long-term memory in kids. Recently, some researchers associated online social networking with several psychiatric disorders, including depressive symptoms, anxiety, and low self-esteem (Pantic, “Online Social Networking and Mental Health”). These symptoms can arise from a disorder known as “internet addiction” or “internet compulsion”. Romeo Vitelli Ph.D. states, “Some adolescents find themselves unable to stay off the Internet for long and experience problems in real-life social and academic functioning as a result.” Even though internet addiction may lack the detrimental physical effects linked to drug or alcohol addictions, a person with internet addiction may still feel the same detrimental psychological dependence to cyberspace.

external image rJyS63jFp1GjU0RczPnDOSyPmrJUIphEsKhnrjJdo5foS7vHHSwlh9rDgi1AhqdXNye-ZRLWcsYFYbUVxW-Vtubk41z5Vuf3n9-OItRAy-tenkUFj_rs6kNH2EEdRHtkEO8Wvz22

The internet age has quickly allowed us to revolutionize the way we communicate. In reference to the general accessibility of the public to person, Cornell University's Steven Strogatz says “social media sites can make it more difficult for us to distinguish between the meaningful relationships we foster in the real world, and the numerous causal relationships formed through social media”. Social networking sites enable the oversharing and under-caring disposition younger people put off through their profile pages. The portal created by these sites encourage the communication of the generation to live in cyberspace. These non-physical interactions occurring with the vulnerability and lack of self-regulation in adolescents can prove detrimental to their development.

Compared to those who do not use the Internet frequently, those who do—thirty-one percent of the U.S. population, according to the study—spend a whopping seventy minutes less daily interacting with family, twenty-five minutes less sleeping and thirty minutes less watching television (Dixon, “Researchers Link Use of Internet, Social Isolation”). The Stanford Institute for the Quantitative Study of Society estimates, “on average, Internet users spend three hours online every day. More than half of the time is spent communicating, [approximately nine] percent playing games, [approximately seven] percent surfing, and [approximately four] percent shopping.”

As we know per the noted research, alongside research not here listed, the intelligence and social skills vary greatly between overly digitally-stimulated children compared to those who experience less exposure to the internet. The detrimental effects that constant connection can cause on a persons brain, self-image, social skills and etc, can lead to greater problems than just "addiction" down the line. Avoiding the internet is seemingly impossible for most adolescents, but the internet does not need to be avoided completely. That being said, everything should be used in moderation, along with cyberspace.

Works Cited