The Internet

Corey Emery, Staff Writer

Many people, including myself, cannot imagine living without computers, technology, and the Internet. The latter has opened up numerous horizons to the average American for access to information, videos, friends, and so on. The Internet has greatly enhanced the abilities and knowledge of the average person, but it also comes with its problems and flaws. Teenagers today have grown up in this technological age. We have grown up to become dependent on the Internet and all of its conveniences. The Internet puts the world at anybody’s and everybody’s fingertips. We can search for anything and everything from the comfort of our living rooms. For research papers, I use Google and find the information needed within minutes, whereas my parents had to spend the day sifting through the public library’s books and encyclopedias in their youths. This decreased research time is something that all teens today take for granted.

Along with increased efficiency, technology and the Internet also have a quality that can possess their users and create a greater focus on themselves at the expense of others. In one swift move, libraries, encyclopedias, and local stores have had a shadow thrown over them due to the increased use of e-books, search engines such as Google, and online marketplaces such as Amazon. Inter-human contact could be and is in the process of being replaced by social networking sites. Instead of talking, teens chat and IM. Instead of getting together in person, teens start group messages on Facebook. Instead of meeting outside on a nice day, teens get together on multiplayer online games and play that instead. While this may seem like harmless fun, many do not realize that they are slowly being sucked in by the addictive powers that the Internet possesses.

Herein lies the problem. As teens are drawn into the Internet, we begin to lose a sense of how much is too much. The average American teenager spends 44.5 hours per week on the Internet, which is only 1.5 hours short of the average American workweek. Much of this time is spent on social networking sites, and I believe these sites pose a major problem that many teens overlook: the issue of privacy. These sites, and the Internet in general, have diminished the amount of privacy anyone person can have. Statistics show that 55% of teens give out personal information to complete strangers over the Internet, 29% have posted mean information or started rumors, and 24% have had embarrassing information made public without their consent. Every teen, including myself, has the fear of something personal being leaked through any of these sites, and yet many still continue to use the sites and push the fear to the back of their mind.

One of the biggest factors affected by the Internet is bullying. When I took the time to contrast bullying from my parents era to bullying in the current day, I was surprised with what I found. Before the popularization of the Internet, what was bullying? It was group of people ganging up on a weakling, much like it is today, but what was the extent? There was name-calling and insults thrown back and forth, maybe along with a few punches, but that was mainly it. There were rumors, but most were petty and short-lived. Much of what was bullying then would be considered teasing today. Let’s look at today. With the use of the Internet, large groups of people can now coordinate how and when to bully a single person. Rumors can be spread far and wide to nearly every person in a community. Embarrassing and photoshopped pictures can be leaked throughout an entire school, all through one click on a mouse. This type of bullying has become customary, and will drive 7% of bullying victims as far as attempted suicide. 

Despite the lack of privacy provided by the Internet, there is still one group from which everything is kept private: parents. Teenagers don’t want their parents to see what they do on the Internet because most of them fear that their parents will disapprove of the social networking site they are on or of the types of games they are playing. This has now led to a trend of distrust between parents and children. 88% of parents know that their children use the Internet to communicate with people they don’t know, and one-third go as far as to check their children’s social network sites. Two-thirds of children know how to hide their activities from their parents, one-fifth think their parents are oblivious to their activities, and 43% say that they would change their behavior if their parents were watching them. Children have also taken measures such as creating new email addresses and online profiles that their parents don’t know about to continue their online behavior.

I myself do not have any social networking profiles, and I try to limit my time on the Internet. I would much rather prefer to spend time talking to my friends directly than have technology act as my mediator. Though some may see me as a traditionalist wanting to see the former way of social communication restored to prominence, I feel that this change would be for the better. Despite the great triumphs experienced by the Internet in its early stages, I feel that we are beginning to see the social cost outweighing the social benefit for teenagers.