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Is Internet good for children? January 16, 2008

Posted by Arun Rajagopal in Conversations, Digital, Healthy Living, Oman, Social Media.
Tags: , ,

Urbane January 2008 article


I recently wrote an opinion piece for Urbane, a leading lifestyle magazine in Oman. (Jan 2008, Annual Issue).

It was a column called ‘Over the table: View from this side‘ where two people discussed about the pros and cons of a particular issue. I’d to say ‘aye’ to the issue: Is the Internet good for children? & ‘nay’ to: Is there more harm than good for them?

Rekha Baala, the opposing advocate, had a very useful perspective where she said: The lessons of life are best learnt in the offline world.

In this blog post, I’m inviting 6 bloggers who can comment better on this issue.
Amy Jussel
, Tim Jackson, Drew McLellan, Greg Verdino, Robyn McMaster & Luc Debaisieux. Looking forward to hear your perspectives, as well.

Here’s a more expanded version of my article for my blog readers.

How good is the Net for kids?

Depends pretty much on how they use it. They are on Chat, Instant Messaging, Email, MySpace, Facebook, P2P networks, YouTube, and more.

The conversational nature of interactive online media has Y-Geners in raptures. The benefits of going online are aplenty: Information. Knowledge. Entertainment. Conversations. Creativity. Validation. Self-Expression. How does it feel to have the world at your fingertips?

The use of social media – from blogging to online social networking to creation of all kinds of digital material – is central to many teenagers’ lives.

A recent PEW Internet & American Life Project Report on Internet usage among teens in the USA tell us that: 93% of teens use the Internet, many to share something they have created (39%), publish their own online journal or blog (28%), and interact with other people on social network sites (55%).

How cool is that? Today, young ones have taken to the Net like ducks to water. You just can’t keep them away from the pond. What you can do is help them navigate the waters better.

Parents and educators have a very important role to play in making Internet usage a responsible, productive and enjoyable experience for children. It starts from checking up on and regulating their Internet usage, and setting standards for content accessed as well time spent online.

Here are a few useful tips:

  1. Be an online mentor to your kids, especially if they are under the age of 10. Browse websites and online resources of interest together. Have a fixed time out on the Net. Stay involved with your children’s online lives.
  2. Have standard security, content and privacy filters and controls on your computer.
  3. There are many online support resources on issues such as Parent and Teen Internet Use; Objectionable Content, Online Stranger Contact; Cyber bullying; and Online Privacy.



1. Robyn McMaster - January 16, 2008

Arun, I pretty much side with you that the Internet can be very good for kids, but it also can have a dark side if there’s no supervision. I really go along with #1 about parental mentoring.

Thanks for providing stats from the PEW research. That gives a great window into the ways teens use the internet!

I’m up for the challenge you gave me Arun. It isn’t a topic I’ve blogged on but I’ll look into it from a very different angle and see what results!

2. Cam Beck - January 16, 2008

Arun – It looks like you hit on all the key points. While admitting risk, you provided a constructive solution for parents. Kudos.

3. Arun Rajagopal - January 16, 2008

Robyn: I’m looking forward to hear your views on this subject. I think the Net can play a productive role in shaping young lives. While there is no dearth of literature on how social media and other tools can do a world of good for individuals and businesses, it would be interesting to look at their effects on children.

Cam: Thank you! – it’s important that children get to benefit from the best of both offline and online worlds.

4. Shaping Youth - January 18, 2008

Arun, as you know, I’m on BOTH sides of this issue in a huge way…so content and context is key.

There are pioneering opportunities in using digital learning in virtual worlds and social media in new & exciting ways, and yesterday, I just gave a session on ‘green media’ to middle-schoolers showing “green teens” how to use the web as a springboard into outdoor knowledge with enriching resources to enhance their time in nature, from reviews of parks/trails/tracking pawprints and such to wilderness advocacy, recycling, and visionary pursuits in-world for sustainability.

That said, I’ll tackle this challenge as soon as I can come up for air from the blogosphere brouhaha on the Target campaign which I slammed for ‘normalizing objectification’ in the big box retail sphere but somehow devolved into a diluted UGC opinion poll of “spreadeagle vs. snowangel” focusing on the minutiae of the one ad itself. (talk about hijacking a global conversation into a silly ad debate, sheesh)

Anyway, yes, there’s internet risk, and even damage taking place (cyberbullying, pornification cues, & commercial infiltration of media/marketing messages in surround sound) but frankly, that’s not confined to the internet…that’s ambient advertising and universal appearance-based cues undermining kids’ sense of self-worth.

So again…content and context. Thanks for the opportunity to take it on…will do…Just gimme some time as I’m drowning here!

(p.s. our readership in India has spiked, and somehow I’m thinking you have something to do with that…I’m crediting you regardless, just knowing you’re such an ambassador of conversation!) 😉

5. Rekha Baala - February 1, 2008

hi! arun, this is rekha baala here. Looks like the topic has thrown up some interesting views. i read your take on it and actually follow the points you have mentioned! Though we have reached the stage where we cannot do without the Internet in our lives, i believe it has also limited our creativity to a large extent…

6. Susan sridhar - February 18, 2008

The Internet is like fire. You either use it or abuse it. Children who for example are introduced to sex on the Net unfortunately learn all the perversions before they know the straight facts!!! Thats sad.

7. Mike Sansone - February 23, 2008

Love Susan’s metaphor. One I use is driving. We see many different ways to use cars effectively and productively – tho many use them irresponsibly. It doesn’t stop us from driving or learning to drive.

The Internet has become the center of the world we live in. Proper use (and instruction of such use) is GREAT for children (of all ages).

8. The Purple Corner » Purple » Video Green Geek : learn from Harry ! - February 25, 2008

[…] way to stay involved with your child's online usage and guide as suggested in this article by Arun Rajagopal.  Special thanks for the inspiration goes to Little Laura's Twenty Five Days to Make a […]

9. Robyn McMaster - March 18, 2008

Arun, I met your challenge and have a follow-up blog entitled Children’ Brains on Video Games and the Internet. Hope you like it!

10. Children and the Media « Random Reflections - December 4, 2008

[…] like porn, inappropriate chat and cyber-bullying. Therefore, care must be taken by parents to protect children while they are online since they are not in a position to fend for themselves at their tender […]

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