The Internet has long come under fire for being a distraction to children and teenagers that subsequently lowers their ability to intake information which ultimately damages their education. However, now it seems that these accusations are erroneous and that the polar opposite is true: the Internet aids a person’s education and overall quality of life, not hinders it.
A recent study from the University of Oxford showed that teens that did not have Internet access were actually more likely to miss out on educational and social opportunities than those who do have Internet access. In other words, being disconnected from the online world puts individuals at a disadvantage. The study sample was taken from over a thousand households in the United Kingdom over a four year period where teenagers were interviewed about how their access to the Internet affected them. Of the kids interviewed, about 300,000 were without regular Internet access. Overwhelmingly, kids who did not have regular access to the Internet found themselves struggling to keep up with their peers both socially and academically.
Watch the video posted above for the full report.
Meanwhile, the study also revealed that many parents who were interviewed focused on the negative aspects of the Internet—like distractions from social media and the possibility of viewing inappropriate content—much more than they focused on the positive possibilities that the Internet offers young people. Although these are certainly concerns to be contended with, denying children Internet access can actually be more harmful than beneficial since the Internet opens the doors to many wonderful and enriching opportunities, as long as the system is used correctly.
The study also revealed the increasing comfort youths feel with technology. For example, in 2008 the average age of Facebook joiners was 16, as of 2011 the age range had dropped to 12 and 13 year olds. If this trend continues, it is very likely that soon even grade schoolers will be using social media to speak with their friends. However, the overall use of Facebook was in decline even as overall use of the Internet steadily increases every year, which suggests that the Internet will flourish even as certain platforms (like Facebook) become less relevant. One researcher declared that there was no “steady state of teenage technology use” because fashions change from one platform to another. Yet the overall use of technology as a tool of communication is doing anything but dwindling.
The full findings of the study can be read via the book based on the extensive research titled “Teenagers and Technology.”
Past generations did not have the Internet and so it is easy to understand why parents are wary to allow their children—especially younger children—to access the entire world via a device like a computer or a smart phone. Taking precautions is fine, but allowing Internet use is essential to teach kids how to navigate a technical world that will become increasingly dependent on virtual reality throughout the lifetimes of the present generation and future generations.