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Internet's Affect on Adolescents: A Literature Review

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In this day and age, children and adolescents are using the Internet for a variety of applications. Since they spend a large amount of time on the Internet, the question arises: How does Internet use influence a child's development in school (cognitively, academically and socially)? This literature review collects studies and articles pertaining to this subject.
"Teenage Communication in the Instant Messaging Era"
Bonka S. Boneva, Amy Quinn, Robert Kraut, Sara Kiesler, and Irina Shklovski
This article states that communication is a major part of Internet use for adolescents. The way Internet communication services are set up makes people feel they need to be connected for large amounts of time to be available for conversation. In addition to this attraction to Internet communication, adolescents are in a developmental stage in which they feel the need to have many peer affiliations and friendships. Since Internet communication is so convenient, adolescents use it to fulfill this need. They are able to have real-time private text-based conversations and can see when others are online. This article shows how just one application of Internet use is used extensively, let alone all of the other applications on the Internet, and how it appeals to adolescents. This proves the importance of researching how this extensive time on the Internet affects adolescents, who are its major consumers and are in a developmental stage of life.
“Adolescents on the Net: Internet Use and Well-Being”

Kaveri Subrahmanyam and Gloria Lin

This study was carried out to gain an understanding of the relationship between the adolescents’ Internet use and their psychological well-being. Well-being was measured by self-reported loneliness and perceived social support from significant others. This study was necessary because of previous concerns that since time is finite, the time spent online and the relationships online took away from the time talking to people face-to-face and on the phone. Therefore, weak social ties would be replacing stronger social ties, compromising well being. Since adolescents use the Internet extensively and are the biggest consumers of Internet communication, their well-being came into question. This study looked at the level of online relationships, rather than time spent on the Internet, as well as loneliness and social support. The Roberts Revision of the UCLA Loneliness Scale measured loneliness and Harter’s Social Support Scale measured social support for Children. The main finding of the study was that loneliness was related to the participants’ perception of their relationships with online acquaintances. For example, subjects who said that they would turn to an online acquaintance in an emergency depended on weak ties and showed more loneliness. The study concluded that there is a positive correlation between Internet use, loneliness, and low social support.
“The Impact of Home Computer Use on Children’s Activities and Development”

Kaveri Subrahmanyam, Robert E. Kraut, Patricia M. Greenfield, and Elisheva F. Gross

This article serves as an overview of the research already conducted in relation to the effect of home computer access on children’s physical, cognitive, and social development. Research on children’s physical development shows that access to a home computer increases a child’s amount of time spent in front of the computer screen. This takes away time from other activities, including physical activity. Therefore, access to a home computer can put a child at risk for obesity. On the other hand, cognitive research suggests that games played on the computer, which includes online games, can be a helpful step to computer literacy (the knowledge and ability to use a computer and other technology efficiently.) Therefore, access to a computer can produce or foster a helpful skill. There is also limited research that shows that home computer use can be a helpful tool for children to increase academic performance. Research on the effects on social development have shown that Internet use can be linked to loneliness and depression and blur a child’s ability to distinguish between real life and simulation. In addition, exposure to violent content can desensitize a child to suffering and lead to aggression. The conclusion of the article is that there are positive and negative effects of home computer access. More research is necessary in order to utilize the positive aspects and eliminate the negative aspects.

“Effects of Home and School Computer Use on School Readiness and Cognitive Development

Among Head Start Children: A Randomized Controlled Pilot Trial”
Xiaoming Li, Melissa S. Atkins, and Bonita Stanton

The purpose of this study was to test the impact of computer use on school readiness and psychomotor skills. A group of students was divided into two groups. One group was allowed to work on a computer for 15-20 minutes a day using appropriate educational software. The other group served as a control group (they were given the regular curriculum and were not given access to a computer.) Both groups were given tests in the beginning and end of a six-month period that assessed their school readiness, visual motor skills, gross motor skills, and cognitive development. The group of students that was allowed to use the computer performed significantly better on these tests.

“Electronic Screen Use and Mental Well-Being of 10-12-Year-Old Children”

Fei Yang, Asgeir R. Helgason, Inga Dora Sigfusdottir, and Alfgeir Logi Kristjansson

The main purpose of this study was to identify the relationship between electronic screen use and mental well-being indicators in a sample of 10-12-year-old children. A survey was used identify the amount of electronic screen time children had daily (the results were self-reported but not all participants answered). A range of 2.8% to 6.6% of boys and 1.0% to 3.8% of girls reported screen use of 4 hours or more per day. The study concluded that there is a dose-response relationship between electronic screen use and child well being. In other words, electronic screen use has an effect on well being and the greater the amount of time spent in front of a screen, the greater effect it has. This research is important because it establishes that Internet (an example of electronic screen use) affects children's well-being and therefore shows that this is a subject of concern that requires further research to determine the Internet's specific effects on children.

"To Slack or Not to Slack: Internet Usage in the Classroom"

Gerow, Jennifer E; Galluch, Pamela S; Thatcher, Jason Bennett. JITTA : Journal of Information Technology Theory and Application 11. 3 (Sep 2010): 5-23.

Many schools today provide Internet use as a way for students to access more relevant information on time to help them learn. However, there is evidence that Internet access really hinders their academic success. For example, students may "cyber-slack," or procrastinate by engaging in other online activities instead of learning. This study investigates what influences student Internet use in the classroom. The results show that cyber slack is influence to a large extent by the individual and to a lesser extent by the surrounding environment. Multitasking involves engaging in several online activities at once, some of which are non-class related activities; multitasking causing cyber- slacking directly. Also, students who have an inclination to get cognitively absorbed in Internet technologies are more likely to cyber-slack. Cognitive absorption is a state of deep involvement with an individual task. In addition, multitasking increases the intent to cyber-slack through cognitive absorption; a student may become deeply involved in one of the many tasks they are currently doing at the same time, choosing a non-class related activity and neglecting the academic activity. In other words, since students are given Internet access, they have access to vast information and activities. They can become involved in more than one activity at once, which directly causes them to cyber-slack. Not only does this wide variety of information lead to multitasking, which directly causes procrastination, it also increases cognitive absorption in non-academic activities. In regard to environmental influence, a student is more likely to cyber-slack if his or her peers approve of cyber-slacking (however, this has less of an influence than the previously mentioned factors). This article provokes second thoughts about providing Internet access to students as a tool for learning.

"Internet Use During Childhood and the Ecological Techno-Subsystem"

Genevieve Marie Johnson, Korbla P. Puplampu

This article expresses the importance of Internet usage research in relation to child development. It establishes the techno-subsystem as part of a child's microsystem. Ecological systems theory places a child within different levels of influence on development through interaction; the microsystem contains immediate environments that the child is exposed to (e.g. home and school). The article states that children are exposed to the Internet to the extent that it is considered another immediate environment the child is influenced by. Since the Internet has such an influence on development, studies were done to determine what the influences are. Internet usage is separated into three main categories of activities: playing games, communicating, and visiting websites. Studies show that playing Internet games promotes cognitive development in children, specifically visual intelligence. However, playing Internet video games has also been linked to distractibility, over-arousal, hostility, and aggression. Other studies have shown that children who communicate online (e.g. email and instant messaging) showed more advanced second language learning than children who do not communicate online. In addition, there are suggested cognitive and learning benefits from visiting websites because of the vast information available and the cognitive processes exercised. Lastly, the path of influence between Internet use and child development is affected by the context in which it is provided; for example, perceived parent control and a home setting reduced exposure to negative content.

"Digital natives? New and Old Media and Children's Outcomes"

Bittman, Michael; Rutherford, Leonie; Brown, Jude; Unsworth, Lens. Australian Journal of Education 55. 2 (Nov 2011): 161-175.

This study tested children's access to digital devices and their development of vocabulary and traditional literacy. In order to test development, a longitudinal study method was used on children from the time they were born until they were eight years old. The study also looks at how parental mediation practices influence the children's digital screen experience. In terms of computer use, the study found that using a computer was related to more advanced language skills. However, this does not include playing games on the computer. This shows that different activities on the computer can have different effects. Also, the study concludes that it is important for parents to control the context in which their children use a computer in order for the children to acquire vocabulary. This shows that it is not necessarily computer use that directly affects children's development, rather the way they use a computer is what has an effect.


In conclusion, Internet use can have positive and negative effects on children's performance in school. There are applications of the Internet that can help children succeed academically and socially and grow cognitively. However, there is potential harm the Internet can do if it is not used appropriately. The way Internet use affects children depends on the context and way it is used.



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