On Christmas Day, 1990, in a lab at Cern in Geneva, Switzerland, Tim Berners-Lee finished building the tools to create the World Wide Web (Krotoski, 2010). Twenty years ago, this act of releasing the technology for free had been a revolution. Twenty years later, this snowballing cyber age – with Twitter, Facebook, Skype, YouTube, Google and a maze of other electronic avenues – has engulfed the lives of today’s youth, where playing out into the fields has been replaced by surfing over the internet. Researches show that 87% of the youth today go online, representing 21 million youth (Weiss, 2005).
It has become a growing concern in the society, especially among the parents, about the cyberspace’s detrimental impacts upon the teenagers since it is concealed beneath the whitewashed faces of social media and other sites and generates addiction, which results in reduced efficiency of the students. Furthermore, it exposes them to the dangers of cyber bullying, and ruins the teenagers’ creativity and originality; not to mention, it also creates destructive impact upon family bonds. The creators of social media and other beguiling websites assert that the growth in the use of Internet is leading towards modernization among youths.
It enables accelerated exchange of information and opens up diverse opportunities for valued learning, responsibility, and independence. Students can learn to manage time and resources effectively, master meaningful context, and communicate this information clearly to the intended audience (Wakefield & Rice, 2008). An admirable example of such websites could be ‘Studious. com’, ‘Schooltraq. com’ and ‘Pearson book store’ all of which aims at making experience of education interesting, captivating and organized for the teenagers.
However, this breakthrough in proficient and grassroots communication is merely one face of the profound cyber metamorphosis that is altering people’s existence. On regards to the growing concern over cyber age’s impact on teenagers, the Federal Bureau of Investigation (FBI) estimates as many as 50,000 pedophiles are online at any onetime, and suggests that one in 10 children has met a stranger on the internet, a quarter have received a pornographic junk mail, and a third have been subjected to unwanted sexual comments (The Daily Telegraph, 2006).
This clearly reflects the danger to which the teenagers are exposed by being constantly in touch with the Internet, the most common result of which is addiction, where the teenagers may spend hours after hours surfing the Internet which otherwise might have been allocated for their precious studies. Hence, this generation of addiction hinders teenager’s studies, as well as marks down their efficiency and productivity. This has been supported by Reed (1999) who says that media violence has a stronger effect on children because they lack the real life experiences to judge whether something they see on the screen is realistic.
The Internet has been claimed to be a vehicle for youth to express themselves. The availability of services like blogging and the rise in the number of online-based shops might allow the teenagers to identify and refine their potentials. Historical incidents nowadays also take place due to this possibility of youths to express their views, examples of which includes the toppling of dictators in Libya, Tunisia, Egypt, and elsewhere. The same method of Internet mobilization also rallied multitudes of American protestors for the Occupy Wall Street movements (Charleston Gazette, 2012).
It is that expression of views which enables the teenagers to boost up their confidence level; however, these same expressional views, when being targeted of cyber bullying, can greatly distort the inner strength of the juvenile. Cyber bullying is a fear when a person receives threats, negative comments, or negative pictures from other person, (Sharma, 2011). It has started to become a dangerous trend in the society, with an age group below eighteen being a more susceptible target.
Traditionally, the “bullying” was merely limited to a certain group, however this explosion in the use of Internet broadens the group of bullies. On a research carried out by a Kowalski and Limber (2007), 11% of the interviewed students where victims of cyber bullying and 4% were bullies. This rising trend not only creates mental disturbance among the teenagers but has also extended its impact to some of its victims even committing suicides. The seriousness of this adverse effect of Internet using cannot be overstated and needs careful precautions from parents.
One may argue that the instant availability of information available through Internet improves and extends the knowledge background of the students, and allows them to do extensive research on a topic. The procurable academic journal and suggestive guidelines sides may prove to be a students’ right hand during examination. It is a whirlpool of information – simply with a click of a button one may access information regarding the simplest to the most complex of matters, immensely influencing the education system of teenagers as well.
Incidents like the Encyclopedia Britannica stopping to print it’s prestigious bound volumes because readers switched to free information on computer screens reflect the significance of rise in virtual information. Also, creative applications like Adobe Photoshop and Illustrator has been said to promote creativity among the teenagers. However, the suggestive noble cause of the provision of free information by the Internet does not portray the entire story.
One of the rising concerns among the teachers today is that of plagiarism, where the students instead of using their originality and creativity, are choosing the easier path of copying from the Internet. This shortcut definitely limits the knowledge of the students, and may even subjugate the creativity powers of the youth. From the study conducted by Don McCabe from the Centre of Academic Integrity, the results demonstrated that out of 4500 students who completed the survey, 52% had copied at least a few sentences from a website page without citing the source.
Furthermore, a large portion of students is not sure if copying from the web was a bad practice. Hence, despite it’s massive usefulness, it is becoming important to pull some restrictive measures upon the access of information so as to motivate the youth develop their own thoughts. The massive growth of the virtual world created by Internet makes it almost impossible for parents to keep an eye on their children or try to limit the detrimental impacts it might have upon them due to the viewing of wrong content. Over 80% of adolescents own at least one form of new media technology (e.
g. cellphones, personal data assistance, computer for Internet access) and they are using this technology with increasing frequency to text and instant message, email, blog, and access social networking websites (Lenhar and Madden, 2007). In addition, statistic show that the average Internet uses is 13 hours a week, but only 18% has parental guidance (The Daily Telegraph, 2006). This may lead to our deduction that too much parental interference may even make the teenagers irritated and provoke them to be rude with their parents; resulting in weak family bonds.
Degraded competency as a result of obsession, breakdown of self-confidence due to harassment caused by strangers, and it’s obvious effects upon teenagers’ imagination and resourcefulness are making parents all around the world uneasy and troubled in their efforts to protect their children from the pernicious impacts of the virtual world. Yet, it would be unwise to say that Internet does not incite any favorable influence among the young generation.
It is the most significant decentralized media in the world, enabling the juvenile to connect as well as expand their potentials and knowledge. In this world of globalization, it will be illogical to suggest the absolute eradication of Internet for teenagers rather, the most important thing is to teach and model for our youth how and why to get “unplugged”. Achieving the balance between “virtual” and the “real” world might be the way to thank Tim-Berners Lee for his gift on the Christmas day of 1990.