The information super highway, popularly known as the internet, is one of the greatest discoveries of the last century, ranking only next to Einstein’s Theory of Relativity and the Theory of Quantum Mechanics.
There has been an explosion in internet usage in early part of the 21st century. The internet has created new ways for individuals to communicate, meet and exchange information about their lives, with social networking websites such as Facebook, Twitter and Instagram becoming almost synonymous with the internet. The internet is however, must broader in its scope. It has changed the field of education and health, in the form of massive open online courseware (MOOCs) and tele-medicine respectively. The face of business has changed beyond recognition, thanks to the developments in e-Commerce, E-Business and E-Marketing. A study by Stephen Siwek of Economists Incorporate, a premier economic consulting firm in the USA, discovered that businesses directly connected with the internet created wealth of about $966 billion for the US economy in the year 2014 alone.
The time spent in front of computers can be injurious to health, contributing to obesity, undeveloped social skills and addictive behavior. Physical inactivity is probably the most obvious culprit of an internet lifestyle. The traditional emphasis on a balanced life-style, combining the mental and physical dimensions and providing for adequate rest, falls prey to the couch-potato syndrome seen in a typical consumer of the internet. In a paradoxical way, the ready convenience of the Internet for shopping, gaming, etc limits physical activity and leads to a sedentary lifestyle.
It is ironic that the internet, which was meant to connect people, has actually broken the bond of face-to-face relationships. An increasing number of youngsters are choosing virtual contacts, both for the anonymity they offer and as an escape from the real world.
A humdrum existence, characterized by a lack of creativity, is a fall-out of the Internet age. The easy availability of information at the click of a button has numbed the need for creativity among the youth. Students no longer apply their minds and discover new approaches to the subject matter at hand, but rather confine themselves to using that which is readily available online.
Cyber bullying refers to the widely prevalent practice of bullying using the Internet. This type of harassment is easier for the perpetuators than physical bullying as there are hardly any regulations and laws to control the menace. Cyber bullying can be so detrimental to mental and psychological health that victims are often driven to acute embarrassment, shame and even suicide in extreme cases.
Time Wasted and Opportunity Lost
Improper use of the internet for watching films, surfing Facebook and playing games, among other things, can be a colossal waste of time. The online betting industry is rumored to have a turnover in excess of billions of dollars, with casino online being a favorite haunt of the youth brigade. According to one study conducted by Stanford University, 12.4% of the participants often stayed online for a longer period of time than intended.
Excessive use of the internet can lead to social withdrawal and even a break in relationships with near and dear ones in some cases. The tragedy of a couple in Korea is a bone-chilling reminder of this fact. The young couple was so obsessed with their virtual baby that they neglected their real baby to the extent of driving her to hunger, abandonment and eventual death.
Privacy is a real threat on the internet. It is very common for youngsters to shed their inhibitions in the virtual world, exchange pictures and private information even with total strangers, a behavioral trait that is unimaginable in the real world. Moreover, there is an ever-present threat of stalking and black-mailing, especially in the dark, deep net.
The Internet addiction is no less dangerous than other form of addiction. People are known to find it difficult to abstain from the internet for a continuous period of time. An interesting fact is that males are more prone to be addicted to the internet.
The starting point of internet addiction may be a desire to escape from the real world due to parental expectations, bullying, etc. Studies have found positive co-relations between the use of the internet and depression, with people addicted to the internet being more prone to depression in comparison to their normal counterparts.
The internet is not a very safe space. The proliferation of illegal websites, unethical content and fraudulent activity online are a fertile ground for criminal activities aka cyber crime. The unhindered growth in computer viruses and malwares can not only attack a computer, but also put its sensitive information at risk. Unethical hacking has become a norm and an individual computer user is often found wanting, in dealing with such formidable adversaries.
The revolutionary technology of the internet has become a defining part of our century and an integral aspect of their daily lives. The internet has no doubt spawned both positives and negative influences on the youth of today. It is our onerous responsibility to use the internet to its full potential, while simultaneously guarding against the pitfalls.