Contrary to popular belief, there are tons of positive effects of the internet on children and adolescents, and there are many studies that prove it. In a lecture given by Professor Gernsbacher, she discusses some of these positive effects which are summarized here:
- Toddlers learn new words just as well through conversations on Skype as through conversations in person. (Roseberry, Hirsh, Pasek, & Golinkoff)
- Children develop their reading skills just as well and sometimes better by using interactive, talking books (for example an iPad) as by working one on one with an adult tutor and paper copy books. (Wood, 2005; Masataka, 2014)
- Grade school age children who spend more time surfing the internet report feeling less lonely. (Caixia, Rude, & Wang, 2013)
- Grade school age children who spend more time on the internet improve their reading skills, and children who spend more time playing video games on the internet improve their visual spatial skills. (Jackson, von Eye, Zhao, & Fitzgerald)
- For adolescents, their amount of internet use does not significantly predict how lonely they feel. (Appel, Holtz, Stiglbauer, & Batinic)
- In a survey of over 600 US teenagers, the majority had social media experiences that make them feel good about themselves. (Pew Research Center)
- Significantly fewer teens are bullied online than in person. (Pew Research Center)
- First year college students feel considerably less adrift if they email and IM to stay in touch with high school friends. (Cummings, Lee, & Kraut)
- Children who play pro social video games are more likely to help and empathize in real life. (Prot et al.)
Of these findings, I found the one that says fewer teens are bullied online than in person to be most interesting. I found this surprising because it seems like there is so much more media coverage of cyber bullying cases than there is coverage of in-person bullying incidents. It’s good to know that it’s not as common as it seems.
This finding is probably not better known because of the universal sense that children are vulnerable and need protection. Parents are conditioned to believe that the internet is harmful- it seems like the media is always covering the negative, and rarely ever the positive stories about the internet. Even the American Academy of Pediatrics issues recommendations on what media children should and should not be exposed to, and the recommendations tend to be conservative. It’s no surprise that parents are hesitant to let their children use the internet. Like all new technology, there is a fear that the internet will lead to harm, especially to the children who are more vulnerable than the rest of the population.
The internet is also good for older people too, helping to improve their psychological, cognitive, and physical health. The Pew Research Center did a report called “Older Adults and Technology Use” and found some pretty interesting data summarized here:
Internet and broadband adoption rates among seniors are steadily increasing, but still well below the national average.
Younger, higher-income, and more highly educated seniors use the internet and broadband at rates approaching the general population.
A substantial majority of seniors now own cell phones, but smartphonesremain rare within the 65-and-older population.
As is the case in the population as a whole, tablets and e-book readers areprimarily “elite” devices among older adults.
- 46% of online seniors use social networking sites, but just 6% use Twitter.
As is the case for the online population as a whole, older women are more likely than older men to use social networking sites.
Social networking site usage is also more common among the younger cohort of seniors, and adoption drops off dramatically after age 80.
- Many seniors face physical challenges to using new digital devices.
Most older adults say they would need assistance learning how to use new devices and digital services.
Once online, most seniors make the internet a daily part of their lives and view it in apositive light. Non-users are divided on the relative merits of going online.
Older social networking site users socialize more frequently with friends and familymembers than do non-users.
Here she is with her iPad and phone.