It has become fashionable to attack the Internet, almost as fashionable as having a pierced nostril or gauged ears.
Various rhetorical attacks on the Internet are paraded before our eyes daily. A major problem with this piñata is that persons indiscriminately whack the entire thing, as if the “Internet” did not have to be defined.
Recent attacks include misgivings about what will happen when the United States turns over control of the Internet, diatribes about corporations giving in to dictatorships and allowing them to limit and censor Internet access, the inequitable digital divide, and even beautifully written pieces such as Martin Kutnowski’s “Fighting the Internet Invasion of Childhood” in yesterday’s Wall Street Journal, essentially arguing for the good old days when the family gathered around the warm glow of cathode-ray televisions.
In the piece, Mr. Kutnowski writes about now having found a technological solution to limit Internet access so that his children now spend only one hour as opposed to four or five hours online. He marvels at the change he has brought to his family and writes, “If they [his children] get bored, they now find things to do, playing with marbles if necessary.” He also lauds that the members of his household watch television together as a family when the day is done.
It worries me if children, teenagers, and students are limited to four hours a day of Internet usage. Part of the problem is the lack of definition of what Internet usage exactly means, as those using the term often include or count the use of other programs on the computer as part of the time and under the heading of “Internet” or “online,” even computer use.
Considering the positive aspects of computer and Internet usage, it is pedagogically unsound to call for shutting down the Internet after one or more hours. If an enterprising young person, a student in the broad and best sense of the term, is working on a project and writing an essay, he or she should be able to access the Internet to obtain information that would be part of the organic discovery process.
I cannot for the life of me understand why it would be bad to spend long hours on the Internet, when you consider the wonderful resources available. Instructional videos, databases consisting of articles appealing to every age level, computer graphics programs, and I am sure you can come up with a long list of highly useful tools to assist thinking, learning, and invention that are available while being online.
And yes, reading, that activity which is the thing young people are supposed to be doing instead of surfing online. But what a wonderful source of reading material the Internet provides! Is it really necessary to banish a young person from Kindle or another reading platform just to preserve one’s nostalgia for days of expensive books, books from the library that were soiled from previous users or had distracting notes on them? Please, let children and young adults make their own texts and marvel at their ability to create hypertexts or websites, as Erector sets, Legos, and other “age appropriate” toys get replaced by Dreamweaver and Photoshop.
It is also mentioned, not as frequently as other complaints leveled at the “Internet,” is that young people are becoming physically inactive. I have observed that young people know to get up and move, even exercise on their own volition, as they feel the need to stretch after being online much like a cat or dog instinctively does. Movement and exercise were available and practiced even in the good old days of book-books, even before the dragon of the Internet allegedly began to hold persons hostage. Bookworms got up or they didn’t. Don’t blame the Internet or look for any excuse to decrease its use.
It is my sincere hope that as my nieces soon begin college that they have been given every opportunity in their wireless home to use electronic devices for hours on end. I don’t see any harm having befallen these teenagers as they are actively researching and visiting colleges and exercising.
I would be extremely worried about their success in the future and now if their parents limited them to one hour a day of Internet usage. It is time that parents and educators embrace and encourage the use of the Internet and stop yearning for the days the dinosaurs walked the earth, or worse, attempting to bring them back. We all know what happened to Jurassic Park. Or if you don’t, it’s on Amazon Prime.