With every day that passes by, the internet is an increasing part of today’s culture. It impacts people all around the globe, no matter their age: children, teenagers, adults. By the increasing amount of time spent online, a question popped out in the collective mind: does the internet make children smarter?
Various researches and specialists tried to give an accurate answer to this question. The results and points of view vary but one thing is for sure: there will never be a YES or NO answer to this question. Why? Because the factors that interfere are continuously changing, the internet is rapidly growing and children’s needs differ from one to another.
Psychologist Linda Jackson, from Michigan State University led a study which tried to answer several questions, and the one mentioned above was one of them. ‘What’s unique about the Internet as compared with traditional ways of developing academic performance skills is that it’s more of a fun environment,’ she said. It is not a surprise to anybody that internet is indeed a more fun and interactive, but the question still remains: does the internet make children smarter? Yes, it does and no, it doesn’t. Want to know why? Keep reading.
Firstly, internet can make a huge difference if it is used for:
- Learning (by having access to information, knowledge, opinions, education tools, studies, etc.)
- Communicating (share information and experiences)
- Interacting socially with friends
- Innovating, creating and sharing content
Secondly, compared to TV or radio, adults (parents, teachers, tutors) can decide what the children can see or do. This means they can guide the children to materials such as websites, videos or articles that are suited for the child’s age, capacity, intelligence or interests. As adults, the thing that should always be in our mind regards the safety and the potential risks involved in children going online.
At this point, the answer to the same question is no, the internet does not make children smarter. A report published by Public Health England concludes ‘Children who spend more time on computers, watching TV and playing video games, tend to experience higher levels of emotional distress, anxiety and depression.’
Here are some of the risks that children are exposed to while navigating online:
- Access to areas that are inappropriate or overwhelming
- Staying to much online than offline
- Divulging too much information about themselves or about their household
- Loosing human connection in favor of social interaction
Instead of trying to find an answer to this complex question, I recommend focusing on the outcome. The benefits and the risks will exist no matter how much time your child will spend online. So instead of thinking too much about what is right and what is wrong, try another perspective. Think of the internet as food for the mind. We know very well that what we are what we eat. If we eat healthy food, our body will be healthier; if we eat junk food, our body will suffer with each passing day. Internet is no different than the food. Teach your child the importance of healthy online activities and the question mentioned above will have only one answer: YES!