Merits & Demerits of Internet and How to Safeguard Your Child from Digital Harm

Internet is one of the greatest blessings of modern technology. It has made the gold mine of information easily available and accessible as well as communication more convenient and comfortable. The concept is continuously evolving, throwing more advanced features and functions for the users.

The boon that internet is widely known as, has benefitted almost every aspect of industrial, financial, social and healthcare system. It is rare to find a service that has not harnessed the power and potentials of internet. It has modernized education system that was reliant on printed books only. These days, students can search anything on internet and learn everything related to their studies from digital media. Hence, internet has heavily influenced many lives in different ways.

However, with plenty of advantages, come a few disadvantages too. Internet poses several risks to users. Children are more vulnerable to the bad side effects of internet. If you have a child, go through the section titled “disadvantages of internet” to know the kind of risks children are exposed to while using internet. It will help you teach your child how to stay safe from harmful effects and make the most of digital media.   

In this article, we will discuss a few advantages and disadvantages of using internet for students. Let’s get started.

Advantages of Internet

Fountain of Information: The most primary and prominent advantage of internet is it works as a fountain of information for its users. Whenever required, you can take a holy deep into sea of information and possess wealth of knowledge. It requires a few clicks on mouse or a few finger presses on smartphone buttons and the door of wonders is unlocked. Internet delivers a vast volume of information in the blink of an eye. Just throw your query in the search box and it will bounce back with loads of data related to the specific keyword.

Being the richest source of information, internet benefits everyone, especially students. They don’t need to go through voluminous books for data pertaining to their search. It saves their time and effort from having to visit a library.

Quick Accessibility: Internet is easy to access 24×7 hours. It’s kind of a shop, a library, a research institute or whatever you want to name it that never shuts. You just need a computer or mobile and internet connection and then voila! Information digging is all at your disposal.

Easy accessibility has made internet the most preferred choice when it comes to finding any kind of information. It helps students understand any subject much better. It is a kind of a big library with countless number of books. However, unlike a brick and mortar library, you don’t need to check its opening and closing time.

Easy Communication: It is one of the major benefits of internet. Students, irrespective of their race, religion, language, cultures and economic backgrounds, find internet a convenient choice for conversation. They can easily engage in conversational exchange with teachers and other students. From that perspective, internet is a much better choice than letters and telephonic conversations.

Students can choose from chats, email, messenger services, videoconferencing etc literally from anywhere in the world. They can discuss any subject, clear their doubts, share their ideas and use forums while remaining anonymous.

Job Opportunities: People were used to penning letters for job applications. Those days are now gone; instead we have been ushered into the digital era. In a larger part of the world, people can find galore of job opportunities on the internet. Job-related information is regularly updated with authentic and relevant details.

This facility helps students and others, who are looking for jobs or willing for a change, to find other career opportunities. Another benefit is students can stay updated on the job market, related to their streams of education.

Online Education: This form of education has become more popular after Covid-19 followed by lockdown. Besides, many colleges and universities from around the world are offering online courses. These courses are beneficial for those living in far-flung places or working professionals who are short on time to attend regular classes. Teachers and students meet on the virtual platform and such a ‘meet and mingle’ defying the physical distance has become possible due to the arrival of internet.

Entertainment Medium: Computer and mobile have become the latest choice for entertainment. However, at the backdrop, it is the internet that actually plays the real game to make entertainment available on your device. Anything, from games, music to movies can be watched on the internet. Teenagers are crazy about online games. This is sort of recreation for them after spending hours for their studies. Entertainment helps to relieve stress of all.

Encouragement to Learn: Plenty of information and quick access to the same are two biggest factors that can motivate anyone, from kids to adults, to learn something new. Whether your child is interested in joining an online course for studies, arts and crafts and whatever he/she likes, internet works as a great motivator for anyone who is not cynical about an unconventional way of learning.

Better Hand-Eye Coordination: Not all online games are bad. In fact, some are really good for children. Researchers have observed that these games actually improve better coordination of hand-eye movements.

Improved Language Skills: I have already stated that internet can fuel your willingness to learn, regardless of your age. Many studies show that regular uses of internet for students help to develop better language skills in different ways such as, online reading or by playing a game.

Problem-Solving Capabilities: Children often play interactive games online. Some of these games are thought-provoking and encouraging enough for children to employ and sharpen their problem-solving skills.

Disadvantages of Internet

Anti-Social Activities: It is interesting to note that internet that facilitates conversation online, heavily damages communication skills in real life. Rather than engaging with the real-life people, children are now more interested to find buddies in their virtual world. Lack of socialization gives students almost a robotic identity while adversely affecting his/her existence as a human being.

Online interaction cannot replace the thoughts, feelings and emotions of real-life communication. Studies suggest that trying to find real life-like feeling in the virtual world often leads to cheating and frustration. Unfortunately, students and youths are deep in this crisis.

Risks of Addiction: Internet is sort of addiction for many, especially students. Studies show that a sizeable number of students neglect their studies and instead, waste their time on internet. For them, internet is a serious distraction. They watch music videos, movies and even play games for a great deal of time that should be invested in studies. Such habits adversely affect their academic performance.

Chance of Misuse: Internet is often blamed for promoting laziness. Offline examination is usually performed under strict surveillance. On the other hand, adopting unfair means is a common practice in online examinations due to lack of proper technological support and surveillance. Hence, examinees often copy and paste information from internet and even from books and other sources. Due to such practices, students fail to understand the basics of any subject, let alone in-depth concept.  

Lack of Reliability: Internet is loaded with information but not all of these come from reliable sources. Digital information could be fake, half-baked or exaggerated. In fact, internet is the best medium to manufacture and propagate propaganda for mischievous purposes such as, misguiding people, defaming someone or even triggering and/or spreading violence.

Conflicts of views, submission to a particular socio-political and/or religious ideology and unreasonable hatred against anyone/anything can pollute one’s judgment and infect others’ perception as well. As a result, though internet is known for flood of information, one should take many things with a pinch of salt. Make sure that your child visits only reliable and trusted websites. Moreover, cross-checking is a must to verify the supposed TRUTH.

Exposure to Vulgarity: It is one of the most serious disadvantages of the internet. Students often get exposed to vulgar contents such as pornography and violence. Adult contents are easily available. Though such websites limit their reach only to the 18+ users, it is not possible to verify a particular user’s age.

Some online games show lot of violence, which is disturbing to children and even adults. Exposure to vulgarity and violence leaves a heavy impact on students’ mental health.

Health Concerns: You need a device to use internet. It could be a computer, notepad or smartphone. Using smartphones or computers for hours could cause your child many health problems such as, eyestrain, back pain and neck pain.

The light emitted from the screen of smart devices is the real culprit for causing eyestrain. Students using internet for prolonged hours often complain of spondylitis, eye pain, blurred vision and lack of concentration

Danger of Bullying: Cyber bullying is a big problem for children. A 2018 survey of children’s online behaviour revealed that 60% of children had experienced some sorts of bullying while using internet. Bullying can be of different forms. Children can be mocked in digital media exchanges. Much of cyber bullying takes place on social media and online gaming platform.

They can face constant attacks which might turn their dreams of being a part of adventure into lingering humiliation and ordeal.

Cyber Predators: Nowadays, internet is full of predators who stalk innocent minds and frustrated people. Children are the most vulnerable block that can be easily subjected to cyber bullying and predating. In fact, they can even be lured into harmful personal encounters with the predators that lurk on mainly gaming platforms and other sites that appeal to children.

The virtual venues are the best places for cyber bullying.  They play with children’s emotions and imaginations. There are several common phrases and expressions these predators use to lure children; one of them is “Let’s play pretend’. On the surface, it is benign but actually designed to stoke curiosity and use it as a hook to draw children in.

Private Information Posts: Children are not aware of social boundaries. Hence, they don’t mind posting private information in public group or forum. It could be anything from intimate personal scenes to family vacation plans or some other information. Many times, personal information revealed by children, causes embarrassment but other times, it could harm you in several unpredictable ways.

Falling for Scams: Children are not tempted by a million dollar offer but may fall for scams involving anything that has an appeal to them. It could be a free access to special features or online games. Young children are easy preys because they suspect none and nothing. Cyber criminals lure children in using the sites they like and promise prizes in return to their demand fulfilment such as, parents’ online bank details and credit card information.

Unfortunately, adults are not safe either. Hence, the rule of the thumb is: if anyone or any offer sounds out of the world, it is less likely to be true. 

Phishing: Phishing involves a mechanism that tries to hack people’s email to play trick on others and lure them in clicking malicious attachments or links. Children often fail to understand that these could be coming from an illegitimate source and hence, respond to the messages. If the same thing is done with text messages or messaging apps – it is called “smishing”.

Smishing texts and phishing emails can appear any time. Cyber criminals, who create these things, keep a constant watch on sites mostly used by children and collect information including friends’ names, email addresses and other details to tailor and trigger their attacks.

Malware Download:  Malware is computer software installed without the user’s permission or knowledge. It is programmed to perform harmful activities on the victim’s computer. It could perform anything from stealing personal data to hacking for other purposes. In all cases, sluggish computer performance is a reality.

Cyber criminals trick users in downloading malware. They play several tricks and phishing is just one of them.

Past Posts That Could Harm Your Life: Unfortunately, ‘Delete’ key is missing on internet. Everything that takes place online, stays there forever. Once your child posts something, you can do nothing to erase it. People, especially children and teenagers are not aware of the danger that could be posed by an old Snapchat message or party picture even after a decade later. It could jeopardize your personal relationship and job prospects. 

An Insight into Child Development

According to experts, child development is an encompassing and inclusive concept that covers everything from biological, physical to mental and emotional changes. In other words, it includes all the aspects of child development from their birth to the period of adolescence. Another aspect of child development is tracking individual progress from dependency to successful independency.

Child development is a robust and relentless process that comes with unique experiences and needs different approaches for every single child. It is important to note that measurable development is not same for every child. Given the same environmental factors and care, development in two or more children in the same age group might be different. Child development is influenced by many factors, with an individual’s personal experience being one of them.

How to Safeguard Children from Harmful Effects of Internet?

We have already discussed that internet is both a boon and a bane for children. We cannot safely conclude that the beneficial effects overpower the harmful influences. Hence, it is important for parents and teachers to adopt certain measures to protect children from any kind of harm that could be caused by digital media usage.  

We will now discuss some preventive measures that you should take to protect your children from internet disadvantages.

Physical Health: Let us first talk about how to safeguard their physical health. As using internet for hours often causes spondylitis, eyestrain etc, hence, its use should be restricted to not more than a couple of hours every day. They should be taught to take a healthy break every 15-20 minutes and do some exercises while sitting before screen. It will help to lessen health problems and even, can prevent those from happening.

Concentration: Internet is kind of opium for young children. It creates addiction and distracts children from their studies.  Limiting hours of usage is one of the ways out. Also make sure that your child is using internet for healthy information and not for harmful stuffs.

Mental Health: For cyber criminals, young minds are easy and silent preys. They are unsuspecting and so, can be easily lured into doing anything harmful, without their being aware of what is happening and how it can hit them hard. Cyber bullying and other kinds of cybercrimes, which consider children an easy meat, exert different kinds of negativities on their mental health.

You should talk to your children and sensitize them towards cyber bullying. Teach them how to stand up to bullies. Also look for any behavioural changes in them, even it seems mild. It is important to install specialized apps in their devices to monitor their online activities. However, there is no alternative to an open dialog with your child.

Much of your children’s posts are in public view. Snooping is bad but it is important to remind them that when parents can see these, so can others. Make them aware of public boundaries and what these mean for them and the whole family as well.

Curiosity is fine but sometimes, it takes you only to the brink of self-destruction. Both children and adults should understand that not everything that glitters, whether in real life or online, is gold. Staying leery of online offers that sound too good is a way to avoid the predators.

Explain to your children that styles and opinions are not static; rather keep changing as they age. With no ‘Delete’ option, a teenager can invite danger in his/her adult life with a single click. How they will love to present themselves to the virtual world will change overtime but their posts will float online forever.

Install anti-virus software in their device. Children may accidentally open malware, which may cause leakage of personal details, data theft, virus attack and other dangers. Anti-virus software will safeguard your computer against these harmful programs that are designed to sneak into personal and sensitive details. Many internet security programs feature special parental apps and controls that will help you build a strong and secure framework for your child’s internet activities.

Final Words

Internet is like a magic wand for users that allow them to experience the wealth and wonders of information. However, with some benefits, some demerits come too. Hence, do everything in your capacity to protect your child from online harms and hazards. There are anti-virus software and many apps with parental control to help you in this regard. However, communicate with your child and keep a tab on your child’s daily digital activities.