1. Using the internet is too easy, just Google a question.
Using other resources teaches children to think more than if they use an internet search engine and then just cut and paste into a report. Using other sources makes them think about where to find better information. The internet can lead to lazy researching.
2. Atrocious spelling and grammar.
I have seen sites where ‘they’re’, ‘their’ and ‘there’ and other homonyms are misused, the grammar is wrong, and sentences are badly constructed. Copying these websites can damage a child’s writing style.
3. It’s not all the truth.
Much of the information on the internet is biased or totally wrong. It is very easy for a person, particularly a child, to pick up wrong viewpoints and beliefs.
4. It can only be done using a computer.
What do they do when no computer is available? They should learn how to find out things using other sources.
5. Some sites are not suitable for children.
If they use the internet a lot they are liable to experiment and find all sorts of undesirable things, from pornography to lies to buying unwanted goods and services.
6. Social media can lead to contact with undesirable people.
It is well known that some people use social media to make contact with unsuspecting others for despicable purposes. Many of those people adopt false personalities to mislead their victims.
A child will probably be unable to properly judge a person with whom they are ‘friends’ and may fall foul of such people and end up in trouble. This type of social media identification of those with whom we communicate as ‘friends’ may mislead a child into mis-believing the benevolence of the person at the other end.
The child needs to be taught who ‘friends’ really are: ‘Stranger Danger’ should be observed on the internet as well as outside in the real world.
7. Sitting at a computer too long is bad for the child’s posture and physical health, as well as any damage to their mental and psychological health due to absorbing some of the rubbish from the internet.
Children need physical exercise, so they should be shooed away from the computer as much as possible. The recommended limit of sedentary activities per day per child is usually about four hours: many children exceeded that limit.
8. Most often, using the internet is a solitary occupation.
Though children sometimes share work at school, using the internet at home tends to be done alone. It is desirable that children have social interaction with their peers and elders. Knowing how to behave with other people is just as important as knowing how to use a computer, and, I believe, more important for the child’s future wellbeing as a socially functioning adult in modern society.
9. The problem of plagiarism.
Too often children who use the internet as a source of information simply cut and paste what they find into an essay or report, without acknowledging the source or interpreting the content in any way. They don’t really understand what it all means since that have probably only looked at one or two websites and simply copied a paragraph or two without bothering to think much about it. This leads to bad research practices, and is dishonest in not identifying the source of the information and who wrote it.
10. Much of the internet is ephemeral.
It is there today and gone tomorrow. Sometimes a web site cannot be revisited to check the information gained from it previously because it has moved, been closed down or hasn’t been kept up to date. It may have been changed on the whim of the owner or because he has found new information or taken on a new belief. What’s there today may not be what will be there tomorrow or the day after, so it shouldn’t be trusted too far.
I am not advocating that children should never use the internet. In modern society being able to use it intelligently is almost a necessity. That is the point: It must be used intelligently. And that intelligence must be taught.
I am saying that children should be supervised in what they do on the internet and taught how to sort out the worthwhile information from the rubbish. I am further suggesting that they should be taught how to critically analyse websites so that they can use what is useful and discard the doubtful, misleading and erroneous information.
They need to be taught how to use the internet as a source of information without picking up bad habits of spelling, grammar, and validity.
As part of this learning they need to be shown other sources of information with which to compare the internet, to learn the value of the sources of good, valid, information and how to reject anything that is doubtful or invalid. Only if they are aware of other, more reliable, sources of information, such as books, can they properly judge the value of information gathered from the internet.
To achieve this end they need to be taught how to think critically and analytically, how to identify and reject doubtful or erroneous information, and how to value good and truthful writing. In that way they will become the better analysts and writers of the future. And better users of the internet.