As the use of internet dominates every activity in the global market, its use in homes and schools has exponentially grown raising concern on its ethical effect on children and teenagers. The nature of the youngsters’ use of internet has generated heat and anxiety among the general public as the society calls for ethical and moral guidelines that would protect children and teenagers from negative effect of the internet.
This paper proposes a research that will identify the effect of internet use among the young people as the academic and policy importance concerning the opportunities and dangers of internet use continue to be raised. The paper identifies these opportunities and dangers as it proposes the methodology and limitations for the research paper. 2. 0 Introduction 2. 1 Background
Internet which slowly started as a network for military officers in the cold war eventually became an important tool in the academic corridors and today the former “Arpanet” has greatly grown to become the primary platform for communication and interaction for different communities around the world. As the Internet traffic hit millions of users each day the communication technology continue to grow to allow for infinite information access and instant interaction by users, a fact that has brought about a social paradigm shift in the way societies used to live in the earlier days.
This technology has particularly been embraced by children and teenagers as a way of learning, socializing and leisure. In the developed countries and many other regions around the word, internet access has ceased to being a trademark for the privileged members of the society as its use in the workplace, education institutions and leisure places continue to grow exponentially. As the use of computers and internet become more and more entrenched in our day to day routine practices, it has become a basic feature not only in the offices but also at our homes.
The presence of internet at our homes has opened up a “super highway” to children and teenagers who are being referred to as the “digital generation” that incidentally predisposes them to overwhelming information and social sites that may contribute heavily in shaping their behavioural patterns. Whereas internet offers a perfect educational platform for the young people, it is also seen largely as a risk factor that could expose them to adult sites, make them more addicted and dependant on the internet and eventually instil anti-social behaviour in some of them.
While this issue demands a critical stance given the consequences it has on the future generation, very little independent researches has been conducted to inform the policy makers and end the growing public anxiety. In most of the researches conducted in the recent past only a few have focused on the social consequences of the internet among the children and teenagers. The households with children or/and teenagers that have access to the internet is however more common than those without (Wigley and Clacke, 2000). 2. 2 Research Objectives
The main objective of the proposed research project is to explore the impact of the internet on children and teenagers based on the expected social, cognitive and behavioural patterns in the society. The research project will aim at identifying issues that deviate from the laid down expectations both at school, home and in the society which find their root from the internet. 2. 3 Research Question The proposed paper will focus on answering the following primary question; • What are the ethical impact on the use of internet among the children and teenagers?
To effectively explore the primary research question the following secondary questions will be analyzed? • What are the children/teenagers perceptions towards internet? • What are the perceptions of the parents whose children are using internet at home or/and school? • What are the important contrasts in internet activities from what is expected to what is actually practised? • What are the possible impacts of these struggles between the theoretical and practical internet activities on children/teenagers’ social development? 2. 4 Research Significance
A study conducted in the UK by Wigley and Clacke (2000), revealed that among the young people aged between 7 and 16 years, 75% of them have used the internet as compared to only 38% from the adult population. This explains that in the contemporary society the young are actually the pioneers of the internet culture. For a long time children and teenagers have also been regarded as a special homogenous object in other studies a fact that has made this category of population marginalised and often left out in researches on the internet.
Even in the midst of growing researches on e-commerce and e-democracy very little efforts are focusing on the expanding online market driven by the young people. For these reasons children and teenagers are often left out in technological advancement as the market analysis is evaluated. As the social effects of internet on the young people become obvious in most societies it is becoming more difficult to ignore the subject and therefore many empirical projects on children and teenagers use of the internet are coming up.
This makes it appropriate moment in which the research agenda on this category of population must be given priority. 3. 0 Literature Review 3. 1 Nature of Internet Usage Recent surveys reveal that children and teenagers attach high value to the usage of internet to gather information, entertainment leisure and as a medium of communication. According to Valkenburg and Soeters (2001), 73% of the children and teenagers use internet as an education tool, 59% use it for E-mails, 38% to play games, 32% for chatting with friends and 31% use internet as a hobby and an area of interest.
The internet has already revolutionized the social patterns of our younger population drastically changing the earlier forms of communication and interaction among the peers. A research conducted by Valkenburg and Soeters (2001), indicates that among most households internet has continued to elicit mixed reaction between the parents and their young ones as it is considered to easily lead the young toward the wrong direction if mismanaged or taken for granted.
While the parents praise the internet for its role in availing most of the information that their children would need in pursuit of their education, the children consider the opportunity more as a source of entertainment that gives them a break from the other “old fashioned” entertainment sources. The tug of war between the parents and children demonstrates an obvious digital generation gap in which children and teenagers who normally acquire and understand new internet skills faster than their parents get transformed into “family tutors”.
The expertise in computer and internet skills among the children gives them a symbolic advantage over their parents that can easily be mis-used in pushing their interests that could not necessarily be approved by their parents. The current researches on the social context in which internet is focusing more in identifying ways and means in which children and teenagers are changing their homes into centres for content production, entertainment and leisure.
This fact has in essence brought about new approaches in children’s activities as questions linger on whether learning has become more fun, playing is turning more and more educational and whether online chatting is part of civic participation or a way of withdrawal from the general society. This kind of researches therefore calls for the need to analyse the online content that is most preferred by children and teenagers. This raises a challenge given the large volume of online contents from which one can choose from and the fact that the hypertext content can be actualized by the user.
This has in effect discouraged most of the researchers carrying out studies on the impact of internet on children and teenagers. Most of the researches today are however guided by the policy issues that are endeavouring in trying to balance the benefits that the internet offers to the young population against the harm that may be associated with some of the sites. Therefore the key agenda is on how the society in general should ethically conceptualize and balance the benefits and the dangers of the internet on the children and teenagers within there spheres of influence.