Today’s internet has taken a long way to become what it is today, one of the first opportunities that were created, was email. Sending emails has been possible since the 1960s, shortly after that sharing files has become possible in the 1970s. The revolution of the internet began with the creation of the World Wide Web in 1989. One year before the first web browser and before the very first website was online, only half of a percent of the world population were online. This is visible in graph 1 at the year 1990. In the year 2000, less than 7% of the world was online. In 2016 the world got divided, in the poorest countries, fewer than 5% of the population were online. On the other hand, countries like Denmark, Norway and Iceland had 97-98% of their population online. For the first time in the last five years, there were an average of 640,000 people online on any day of the year. The increase of internet use comes with an increase of contents on the internet. This increase causes exposure to a lot of different kinds of contents, that can result in overuse or inappropriate internet use for kids and adults. Having this in mind, certain consequences of inappropriate internet use for families can occur that we will talk about in this blog.
To create a strong and healthy family bond it is important to communicate and spend time with one another. The rise of electronic devices caused us to be absorbed in our own world, and at moments not notice our surroundings. It makes me sad that we prefer the internet’s entertainment over the time we can spend to bond with our own family. With the quick rise of the digital age, it seems that we haven’t been accustomed to the culture of using it appropriately.
What Counts as Inappropriate Internet Use?
In order to understand what the possible consequences of inappropriate internet use for families are, it might be good to specify what counts as inappropriate. Inappropriate internet use can be classified as:
- Harassment of others on the internet.
- Being exposed to inappropriate age-related contents.
- Excessively long use of the internet, causing imbalance in one’s mental and physical health.
- Inaccurate information or information that might lead or tempt someone into unlawful or dangerous behavior.
What Counts as Appropriate Internet Use?
As we all know, the internet is invented to make our lives easier and is not the big scary devil. When used accordingly, it can even be beneficial. Moderate use of the internet can lead to:
Mental Skill Development With the Access to Educational Contents
Online learning is becoming more fun with all the games that stimulate kids to learn in an engaging way. This approach to learning is becoming more personalized and based on the concept of mastery. This approach results in the child to be able to take a concept and learn to apply them in any needed situation. Learning becomes more of a tool, instead of a chore.
Not only is there an increase in learning sources for children, but also the amount of accessible online courses is increasing continuously. There are a lot of websites that offer free or paid online courses, you can increase your knowledge easily without any pre-education. If desired, you can follow a free course and only pay if you want a certificate.
An Increase in Problem-Solving Skills
Interactive websites and games help children learn to solve problems as they work their way through the challenges to get to the next level. Simply using a device makes them more developed to learn how to solve problems like the browser not working correctly or connection issues. I think we share the experience that our grandparents or maybe even some of our parents have a difficulty operating digital devices. This is because they have not developed that problem solving skill, since the rise of the online systems was in a later stage of their life.
Easier Access to Information
With search engines on the internet being easily accessible, everyone can access information at any given minute. Instead of having to look something up in a library, searching through books and journals, we can use almost any smart device to look up the information that we are looking for. This causes people to be more knowledgeable and save time to do other things.
What Are the Consequences of Inappropriate Internet Use for Kids?
Kids have a very susceptible brain, by the age they turn three the average child’s brain has reached about 75% of its adult weight. All this neuron mass develops in the first three years, thus most of the development takes place in a child’s early years. What consequences inappropriate internet use has for kids, is highly related to the amount of internet use and the type of contents that it the kid is exposed to. That makes it crucial to monitor what contents and duration they are exposed to the internet. Possible consequences of inappropriate internet use for kids are:
Lower Attention Span
With a tap of their finger, kids can change the contents that they are consuming. When there is excessive internet exposure, the brain gets used to consume a lot of exciting contents in a short amount of time. Over time, this results in a need, and eventually causes a lower attention span. With all the possible fun online activities, it can be difficult for a child to decide whether to do a task that they have to finish or procrastinate and enjoy the entertainment in the moment.
Minimized Social Interaction
When a child spends too much time online, playing games or using social media, they get disconnected from the outside world. The more time they spend on the internet, the less they will communicate and interact with their friends or classmates. Because of this isolation and lack of social interaction, a child can develop depression or anxiety in a young age.
Even though online games can be played with friends, and kids can get a degree of respectability by getting to a higher level or ranking, it does not replace skills that they need later in life. Skills such as respect, sharing, communication and love do not get practiced online, and might stay underdeveloped which has consequences for their future social relationships.
The consequences of inappropriate internet use are not limited to emotional and mental irregularities. When kids are using the internet, they usually are sitting or lying down. On the long run this can cause health problems like:
- Vision problems
- Neck pain
- Distortion of the skeletal structure of the body
- Arm, hand, finger numbness
- Obesity due to lack of movement
Reduced Sleep Quality
Kids might not have the discipline to put away their phones before sleeping, and continue to use the internet past their bedtime. This can result in a late sleep time, and eventually in insufficient and restless sleep. Another noteworthy point, is the blue light that electronic screens produce. This light can harm the sleep schedule, especially when used for a prolonged time a couple hours before bedtime. Blue light blocks your body from producing melatonin, a hormone that makes you feel drowsy. Using electronic devices right before bedtime, can take you longer to fall asleep.
Cyberbullying, Abuse and Security Risks
This consequence is less related to the overuse of the internet, and is more related to the way of using it. Because of their innocence, kids are easily victimized. Some possibilities are:
- Cyberbullying: This can happen by their peers, or by online predators which will affect their mental health.
- Cybercrime: Kids can be a victim of unintentional cybercrime, because of their lack of knowledge about the possible consequences.
- Malware: Kids can unintentionally allow malware into their system, by clicking on certain appealing links they can harm the device that they are using. Malware usually has a goal to misuse personal information. Therefore, it does not only harm the device, but also harms the privacy of the victim and possibly their family.
How Does Inappropriate Use of the Internet by Adults Affect Kids?
Using the internet excessively or inappropriately is not only harmful for kids, but also for adults. This excessive use can eventually even cause harm to the child in question. Not only do parents set a bad example for their kids, but they could possibly neglect their child unintentionally.
Setting an Example
The first role models a kid looks up to, are their parents. Therefore, it is very important that parents set a good example for their children. When parents spend a lot of time on their electronic devices, browsing the internet, a child is tempted to do the same.
People tend to zone out, when they are spending a lot of time on the internet. Eventually it is common that you lose track of time when you are enjoying the online contents you are consuming. The time that could be spent on their child, bonding and creating memories with their kid goes lost. Eventually, this can lead to a mentally absent parent and as a result will harm the child mentally.
How Can Adults Prevent Inappropriate Internet Use?
It is possible to enjoy the benefits of the internet, and prevent your child from inappropriate internet use. By using a parental control program like Safes, it is possible to monitor and regulate your child’s internet use. Safes offers a wide range of solutions to protect your child. With Safes it is possible, but not limited to:
- Set up a screen time schedule, this prevents children from using a device too much.
- Manage and control your child’s web activity, so maintain a healthy balance.
- Detect and block explicit contents, so your child will not get exposed to it.