The Harmful Effects of Computers and the Internet Robin Diaz Student ID# Strayer University Abstract Computers along with the Internet have come a long way from their first uses in the military and by large corporations. Today, computers are an important part of modern life. More and more people are purchasing computers for use in the home. Whether they are surfing the web or managing their finances, computers have become a useful tool. Some parents are purchasing computers and using them as electronic babysitters for their children. They might not see the dangers of this behavior.
Everyday children are becoming addicted to computers and the internet the same way a person becomes addicted to drugs. Parents have to take extra care of making sure that their children are safe on and from the computer and the Internet. There are so many dangers that face children in the virtual world. It’s up to the parents to keep the kids safe from those dangers. The Harmful Effects of Computers and the Internet Over the past few years, I have noticed just how dependent my whole family is on technology. Currently in my home we have four computers with internet access, two Microsoft X-Box 360s, a Sony Playstation 2 and a Playstation 3.
As a wife and mother, I have to be concerned about what my family is being exposed to. I thought that as long as I spot checked what my children were doing, that they would be okay. I had mistakenly believed that my children would understand the rights and wrongs of the Internet. One day I discovered my then nine-year-old son watching pornography on the computer. I was horrified and quickly ground him. After his punishment was over, I permitted him to get back on; again he went back to the porn. His doctor was the one who told me about computer addiction and said that I had to get a handle on this.
At first I wondered how he could become so addicted to the internet. It was then I realized that he was simply modeling the same behavior that he saw in our family. I know that I am on the computer from the time I get up in the morning to I go to bed. Most of this is because I’m working on college work, but I realized that there are times I didn’t need to be on. However, my husband is another story; every morning he gets up for work two hours before he has to get ready, gets on the computer and stays there until he leaves. On the weekend, he wakes up around nine o’clock in the morning and on the computer until after noon.
The afternoon is filled with television and video games. My children spent the entire day alternating turns on one computer. It wasn’t until I spoke to my sons’ doctor that I realized that there was a real problem. She explained to me that my youngest son was very addicted to the computer. I knew that he had a problem, but I had failed to understand just how bad computer addiction was. There are many dangers for children on the computer, especially the internet; many of these dangers include inappropriate websites, cyber bullying, online predators, among other problems.
The very first computers were created in the 1600’s; but in 1939 before the first special-purpose electronic digital computer was constructed by John B. Atanasoff. The Internet was originally created by the U. S. Department of Defense in the 1960’s and was originally called ARPnet [ (2011) ]. Originally, computers’ primary use was for the military and large corporations. In the early 1970’s computers became smaller and this allowed people to purchase computers for personal use. Everyday more people are buying computers for personal uses.
People use the computers to shop, manage finances, and other entertainment purposes. There is however a sinister side to computers and the Internet. More parents are allowing their children to have unlimited access to computers and the Internet. While computers aid in educational purposes, there are many dangers that inhabit the Internet. Parents have to exercise due diligence to protect their families from it. Computers don’t make good babysitters. It’s up to the parents to keep track of what their children are doing on computers and particularly on the Internet.
There are dangerous websites out there that are not appropriate for children. Many of these sites expose children to pornography and unnecessary violence that can be harmful for children. Some sites can appear to be a game site for children, but may include a link to an adult site. A study published in Sexual Addiction & Compulsivity (2006) stated, “Youth are considered a vulnerable audience because they (a) can be easily coerced into viewing pornography or manipulated into the production of it, (b) have limited bility to emotionally, cognitively, and physiologically process obscene material they encounter voluntarily or involuntarily, (c) can be the victims of another’s pornography consumption in ways adults are often more resilient to (d) can have their sexual development negatively impacted through exposure to fraudulent and/or traumatic messages regarding sexuality and relationships, and (e) can develop unrealistic expectations about their future sexual relationships through repeated exposure to fantasy-based templates” [ (p. 131) ]. Social networking sites such as MySpace® and Facebook® are another source of concern for parents.
While these sites allow children to interact with classmates, it can also bring children into contact with less than savory people. Child molesters and pedophiles troll some of these websites and chat rooms looking for victims. Sometimes these people will target children who have unlimited access to the Internet. This can lead to children doing things that they will later regret and share information that can come back later in life to haunt them. These things could include taking pictures of themselves, nude or worse, meeting them in real life. U. S. Rep. Michael G.
Fitzpatrick (R-Pa) said to The Washington Post (2007), “The social networking sites have become, in a sense, a happy hunting ground for predators” [ (p. A. 26) ]. In July, 2007 Steve R. Houck, a registered sex offender was arrested after he solicit what he thought to be a 10-year-old daughter of a prostitute. He was actually in contact with Timothy Palachk, a police officer for Washington D. C. and a member of that department’s Internet Crimes Against Children task force [ (2007) ]. Parents need to pay attention to what their children are doing and who they are talking to on the Internet.
They could think that they are talking to another child, only to discover later that this “child” turns out to be a 40-some odd old pedophile with a lengthy prison record. Another problem with social networking sites is cyberbullying. It was termed by Bill Belsey, a Canadian educator and is so new the term doesn’t appear in Merriam-Webster’s online Dictionary. Cyberbullying is defined by Belsey as “involving the use of information and communication technologies to support deliberate, repeated and hostile behavior by an individual or group that is intended to harm others,” [ (2008) ]. This is bullying taken to a whole new scary level.
This type of bullying entails using a computer to spread threatening messages, private e-mails or text messages or embarrassing photos without permission with the intent to cause harm to a victim. A story published in Our Schools/Our Selves (2008), said “the media stories are already tragically familiar – defamatory comments about teachers, or teachers being misrepresented, on Facebook; students harassed online and driven to depression or even suicide; teachers deliberately provoked in class by students only to have their reactions caught on camera phone and posted to a worldwide audience over the Internet. This type of bullying may happen off the school grounds, but it doesn’t hurt the victims any less. Take the case of Megan Meier, a 13-year-old girl who committed suicide because who she thought was a boy who flirted with her broke up with saying, “The world would be better off without you. ” The worst part was that that comment was posted to MySpace, but not from a boy. It was 49-year-old Lori Drew who wanted to humiliate the child for sometimes saying mean things about Drew’s teenage daughter. The girl was discovered in her Dardenne Prairie, Montana home after she hung herself [ (2008) ].
Some children rely so much on computers that they develop a problem with computer addiction. About 95 percent of people who use computers, have no problems, but is about 5 percent of people who do in fact develop an Internet addiction [ (1999) ]. Patti Dangler, a reporter for the Boston Globe said it best. “As the Internet has become a household presence with almost limitless choices of sites, topics, and chat rooms; it also has come to dominate some people’s lives. Researchers and clinicians increasingly are studying such consuming on-line behavior. Some see a compulsion, others even an addiction” (p.
C. 1). Children are attracted to some of the games because of flashing lights and sounds that come from them. A study published in Cyberpsychology, Behavior, and Social Networking (2010) explains the addiction. “Internet Addiction Disorder (IAD) or pathological Internet use, is a compulsive-impulsive spectrum disorder that includes five primary types of addiction: information overload (compulsive web surfing); computer addiction to programming or game playing; compulsions to online auctions; gambling or trading; and cyber-sexual/relationship addictions” [ (p. 01) ] Mihaela Lazarescu published a study in Petroleum – Gas University of Ploiesti Bulletin, Educational Sciences Series stating, “The consequences of watching TV by children are to be found in the symptomatology of LD syndromes (Learned Disabilities) and ADHD (Attention Deficit with or without Hyperactivity Disorder), associated with numerous linguistic, writing, reading, speaking disturbances, children showing apathy and lack of interest for reading and having affected their memory imagination, willpower and motivation.
We notice in children an increase in aggresivity, irascibility, impulsivity, lack of sensibility toward pain, violence, sleep disorders, an amplicication of anxiety and catastrophical thinking, social and emotional isolation by escaping into the virtual reality, mintal passivity, dependence, erotic materials consumption and psycho-sexual pseudo-maturisation. ” Simply put, children who are addicted to television and/or computers, have a harder time of adapting to the real world. Virtual worlds tend to have things that the real world doesn’t.
Where only certain people are willing and able to purchase certain homes and cars, the virtual world allows for anyone to have the best of everything. Some games like “World of WarCraft” and “Sims” have ways of taking over a person’s life. These games allow a person to make up their own lives and characters and live through them. They are limited only by their imagination. A person can become a millionaire in a very short time, whereas in “real life” that isn’t always possible. As real as the virtual world may seem, it doesn’t substitute for experiences in the real world.
Computers and the Internet can’t give a person a touching hug; neither does it care if a child falls down and gets a cut. Although a child may see a virtual pet on-line and can so called “play” with it, that pet isn’t going to sleep with them at night. This pet isn’t going to curl up on their bed and snuggle when the child is sick. For as real as this pet may seem it is still nothing more than an image on a computer screen and has no feelings of its own. Parents have a responsibility to protect their children; this could be from the real world or the virtual world.
There are many tools out there that help parents to take back control of their children’s lives. The first thing parents should do is talk to their children. This may sound like common sense, but it is amazing just how many parents don’t talk to their children. A lot of parents just assume that their children know what is right and wrong on the Internet. Technology doesn’t raise children, parents do. Second, use parental control technology options. This is software that allows a parent to see the parameters, they wish for their children.
It allows the parents to restrict their child from sending personal information, restricts e-mail activity, restrict website and the content of sites children are allowed to visit and even set up a time when the children are allowed to even be on the Internet [ (1997) ]. The parent then can make it so that the child can’t even access the Internet when the parent isn’t home. Some software will even take snapshots of the sites that the children visit and send a report to the parents to verify that the child isn’t access unacceptable sites. Most importantly parents need to learn to say the word, “NO! Many parents especially mothers, feel guilty that they can’t be home as much as they would like so they tend to over indulge their children. These parents think that they are providing things for their children that they themselves couldn’t have as a child. Television and the Internet have good ways of making children think that they need the next greatest product that is created. Marita Moll stated in her article in Phi Delta Kappan (2003), “it’s time to exercise some common sense in this area by adopting technology policies that will do the least amount of damage to children” [ (p. 01) ] Even though there are a lot of dangers on the Internet, as long as a parent is aware and takes steps to protect their family, there is nothing wrong with allowing children on for a couple of hours a day. Computers are great for research, paying bills, shopping, meeting with friends that have been missed over the year, or just plain entertainment. Parents just have to responsible and if they see their child’s behavior changing, they need to stop that child and find out what is going on. Parents can’t rely on computers to be electronic babysitters.
Computers are tools, nothing more. It’s up to the parents to have control over their children and not the children have control over the parents.