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Q: Parenting today, or lack thereof. ( Answered 4 out of 5 stars,   0 Comments )
Subject: Parenting today, or lack thereof.
Category: Family and Home > Parenting
Asked by: iwannaknow-ga
List Price: $5.00
Posted: 20 Feb 2003 02:22 PST
Expires: 22 Mar 2003 02:22 PST
Question ID: 163822
We were talking yesterday in the office about the state of child
rearing and parenthood in today's society. After stating my views on
how poorly today's parents manage their children and the lack
discipline and responsibility given to them, I jokingly said that if
ever had a kid I would just sit him in front of the internet until he
was about 14 then return to see how he has developed.
The joke was intended as a jab towards the psychology of letting
children today have the freedom to do what they like. A problem that
as I see it started with the baby boomers, and with each subsequent
generation grows worse.

My question (purely out of curiosity) has there been any record of
this sort of child rearing? Are there any studies of children being
given unrestricted access to the internet (as we know it today) from
early childhood as a learning tool, and if so what effects did they

I realise that with the young nature of the net (generally speaking)
this experiment may not have taken place yet. If that is so, what do
you think might happen if such a thing were to take place??
Subject: Re: Parenting today, or lack thereof.
Answered By: j_philipp-ga on 20 Feb 2003 03:43 PST
Rated:4 out of 5 stars
Hello Iwannaknow,

The effects I can see on a child's behavior when educated using the
online world [1]:
- Information is cheaper & faster to acquire, therefore less
- Information is cheaper & faster to produce, therefore less
controlled; a child educated online might be much more doubtful about
quality and validity of content.
- "Information noise" can have negative ability on a child's
concentration, or a child's attention span.
- Time spent in front of TV will be replaced more and more by time
spent online.

Indeed I would agree the medium is too young to find real-world
studies of a child's "upbringing" on the Internet, and the effects on
a child's education and behavior. While the Internet itself is older,
the World Wide Web got popular during the mid-90s, which would mean
kids born in the age of the Web are now around 8 years.

We can see, the Internet already educates teenagers:

Pew Internet & American Life Project
"The Internet has become an increasingly important feature of the
learning environment for teenagers. Research (...) shows that teens
use the Internet as an essential study aid outside the classroom and
that the Internet increasingly has a place inside the classroom."

The Internet and Education
The "Internet constitutes a virtual classroom in which intense
interactivity and the sharing of resources and information constitutes
its essence."

It "is perhaps at the higher education levels where the Internet may
be most effective."

So what we find here is teenagers using the Internet for education.
They may be provided with special education programs or online tutors,
as discussed in the second article. However, you bring up the point of
a child educated by the Internet.

The following site makes one important argument:

Tips for Parents
"You would not let your children open the door to a stranger, so don't
let them spend long hours online alone."

The Internet has a lot of variety in its opinions. Finding the right
page already constitutes the knowledge of what is right, or more
specifically; who to trust in case you are unsure what is right. For a
kid to build up this trust there needs to be the knowledge of what is
wrong, and what is right. Even a great search engine cannot know for
sure if the page it brings up contains relevant, let alone valid,

Often, the offline media -- such as a nation-wide print magazine --
put a great deal of effort into the quality of their news. Simply not
everyone could afford printing their own magazine. But the World Wide
Web does just that, by allowing everyone to publish their own news
magazine, science report, health education paper, philosophical essay,
or political comment.
This means while you might have more opinions from maybe otherwise
ignored minorities, you will also have a lack in quality control. And
many opinions expressed online might be contradicting.

There are some (often ineffective) "child protection" browsing tools
available, but a child needs parental help choosing what is right. A
parent can help the kid learning to "surf" the Web, it being a
necessary skill these days; much like learning to ride the bicycle,
finding your favorite books in the local library, understanding public
transportation and how to use the bus. It is just part of
everyday-life in which children will for the first stage depend on the
parents, to later explore and master it on their own. Of course this
also means the parents have to know about the Internet, if they want
their child to use it effectively! One cannot teach what one doesn't

In the end the Internet is nothing but a -- highly effective -- tool;
it can do many things much faster & in more comfort than before.
Reading a book review without going to the store, talking to a
relative in another country, sending letters half around the globe in
a short while, sharing views with others, organizing political
movements, shopping from your armchair. But as any tool, it can be
used and misused; no reasonable parent would give their own child
hammer and nail for the first time and just see what happens! No,
those need guidance.

What could such guidance consist of regarding the Internet? Consider
following article:

Guiding Children's Internet Use
"Whether it is accessed at home, school or the local library,
connecting to the Internet offers many benefits to families. These
benefits include access to a variety of educational resources that
both expand adult learning and help children with homework. Youngsters
and adults gain technical and information skills important in many
occupations by searching the Net and communicating with others
electronically. Children who have e-mail pen pals gain practice in
social relations. If their pal is from a different country or
background, youngsters also broaden their cultural understanding.

Internet use also has risks. For instance, there are chances of
contact with on-line predators and other deviant personality types and
exposure to inappropriate material, even without trying. Some children
may resort to Internet time, including visits to chat-rooms, as a way
to avoid more threatening face-to-face interaction or physical

The article [2] advises to:
- Set limits
- Participate in your child's on-line time
- Check out blocking software
- Teach children the four "nevers" about Internet use (don't give out
information, don't respond to certain messages, don't meet strangers
face-to-face, don't use bad language or send mean messages online)
- Show your children how to use and evaluate information they find on
the Internet
- Help children understand the nature of commercial information,
advertising and marketing

I hope this helps!

Related books:

Don't Just Surf: Effective Research Strategies for the Net (by Maureen

Teaching and Learning with Technology (by various)

Empowering Students With Technology (by Alan C. November)

In Search of the Virtual Class: Education in an Information Society


[1] I will still assume the child can speak, read & write, knows
basics like navigating with the computer mouse, has social contacts,
and basically caring parents; everything else -- a child solely and
completely "brought up" by the computer -- would likely not result in
anything resembling a social, mature human. See the case of Kaspar

Kaspar Hauser

[2] For comparison, also see:

Research and Guidelines for Children's Use of the Internet

Search terms:
"internet and education"
"world wide web" "effect on a child"
internet "effect on a child"
children internet learning
"internet usage" "effect on a child"

Request for Answer Clarification by iwannaknow-ga on 20 Feb 2003 04:56 PST
Hello J_Philip,

Thank you for answering my question, unfortunately other than your
first comment about Information being less appreciated I found that
your answer was more of a discussion on the ethics of allowing free
access to children.
My question, and I apologise for nor clarifying this when posting it,
was not about the morality of allowing children unrestricted access,
but rather what this may achieve.
As you mentioned the internet allows more opinions from less hearted
minorities, it also allows people to question the moral majorities
justification of right and wrong. By letting the child follow his own
logic, how does this affect his perception of right and wrong.
The idea being that this child's generation once fully matured would
end up transforming societies views of ethics, religion, freedom of
speech, freedom to voice their opinions online and make their own
opinions on issues affecting them without being influenced by media,
politics, and peer pressure. That is of course assuming that the
internet remains largely unregulated which I do not believe it will.
You yourself said that it is replacing TV. more and more, and by
following that course it will undoubtedly become more and more
censored as those with the power realise how this affects its users.

Clarification of Answer by j_philipp-ga on 21 Feb 2003 02:19 PST
Hello Iwannaknow,

Thanks for the comments, and please let me elaborate more specifically
on the points brought up by you.

What will happen if a child -- a whole generation -- grows up with
unrestricted access to the Internet?

---- 1. People will be more inclined to speak up, be less respectful
to authority

Online, it's very easy to give feedback. At times, the discussion
forum is right on the site (often even directly connected to the
article). If it's not one will practically always find a feedback
form. Or an email that goes off directly to the author of an article
-- within the same minute one finished reading it. Even if there's
absolutely no way to give feedback, there's still the option to join
an online discussion group or chat room and discuss things with
others. You will find people in the newsgroup or chat 24 hours a day.
You can even give your opinion anonymously without care for negative
feedback directed at your own person.

Now compare this to a book, the TV, a magazine, or a daily newspaper;
these traditional media are pushing the content in one direction and
are less interactive. One is forced to very much accept things just
the way they are, without means to change them. And as opposed to a
website, even if one writes back with criticism using traditional
mail, it might take a month or more before the letter is printed
(while the chances of it being printed are low to begin with). And the
correction will never make it back into the original article; whoever
has the information already stacked in his book case will never get to
hear you.

Already, the Internet is the basic interactive media to be used in
addition to other media. People discuss movies, news, TV, and other.
Somebody might just have seen a movie, and then log on to the 'net to
find out more about the director, voice his opinion about the ending,
talk to others who reviewed it, find out spoofs and plot holes, get
background information, chat about it with others.

In short, people who will grow up with this form of bidirectional
communication on a decentralized network will be more inclined to
"talk back" to information presented; to question media authority, be
suspicious about validity of content, and in general take it for
granted their voice is heard immediately, loud and clear.

---- 2. People will have shorter attention spans

It takes a long passive reading session to go through a book from
start to end. The form of communication of author to reader is that of
one-to-many, and the communication only flows in one direction. There
is no chance to directly speak back, and the information presented is
not in "inverted pyramid" style (making important points first), nor
are there small chunks of information optimized to be grasped quickly
and effortlessly.

However, such is mostly expected from the Internet. We all heard about
how people online scan through content; skip passages; click hastily
on the next link; open multiple windows; ignore areas (like the
phenomenon of being blind to anything that resembles advertisement on
the screen); click away pop-ups; check their email while going through
a news story.

In a book, you can flip back and forth. You can skip paragraphs. And
on TV, you can zap to the next station. But still, those media are not
as dynamic, and they most often require longer attention spans. People
growing up with the Internet right now will very likely be much better
at scanning information to find crucial bits, but it may be a greater
hurdle for them to actually sit down and read the same continuous line
of thought being developed over a period of hours, or even days. But
let's not forget some arguments do need a lot of initiation,
preparation; not every information is easily communicated.

---- 3. People will be less afraid of new things, strangers

If you're online and reading articles, chatting, participating in
newsgroups and mailing lists, you're exposed to a whole variety of
distinct views of different people. Those people might be located in
another corner of the world, embedded in a wildly dissimilar cultural
context -- and are likely to have a radically different perspective on
the state of things.

In the age of digital information, nobody is alone in his special
interest. And everybody can share it. Every niche is explored. We can
see how taste and opinion differ around the world. This might be
something as innocent as a recipe book from someone living in China,
read by someone living in Finland. It might also be a radical
political or religious view. Everybody will get used to digital
citizens voicing their identity.
People will learn to appreciate new things; to accept tastes and
opinions which were unlike their own; embracing change more openly.

---- 4. People will feel more like integral part of a global community

The digital society is not for all. But worldwide, people are
communicating online. A globally organized peace movement is not a
thing of the future. Political parties can connect, and share
information everywhere. Interest groups can meet up, ignoring physical
distances. People will -- already do --  feel that this planet is not
that big after all and that we're on it together, and that therefore
we must work to bring it to a better future, together.

---- 5. People will put less emphasis on face-to-face communication,
touch, smell, voice

I don't think the Internet is anti-social. In fact, it is very social;
people chat and discuss all day. You meet so many people, and often
speak on a level much more close to your heart. Free of direct social
responsibility, peer pressure, authority, political correctness, free
of any need whatsoever to masquerade.

This being said, the communication is also heavily based on text. You
write, you read. There are web cams, and voice technology, but for the
most part online it's still just that; you read, and you write. What
about meeting other persons face-to-face? To touch their hands, to
smell, to hear the voice. These senses are losing importance in the
digital age. It is my believe new technology will bring those
sensations back and into the online world, but for the time being they
are largely lacking.

---- 6. People will accept computer-illiterates less and less

Right now it's still not a big deal if one never heard of a search
engine, a newsgroup, or if one doesn't really know what constitutes a
chat room. People who may be able to use their Personal Computer for
word processing might just have started to use email. But things are
changing. Anybody growing up in the digital era will not have much
arguments in the future for having steered clear of the online world.
Everybody will put emphasis on this knowledge, and those who do not
understand this world will have greater problems getting around urban

This might cause a gap between countries which are highly connected,
and those which are not. Information wants to be free; but it also
relies on technology that costs money in setting up and maintenance.

Also see:

Bridging the Digital Divide - A Vision to a Digital Inclusive Society
(by Sin Chung Kai, June 2001)

---- 7. People will adopt a variety of identities

On the Internet, you can be anyone you want. This is true for
chatting, posting in a bulletin board, creating your own website.
Nobody hears your voice or sees your face. You can also adopt
different identities in different contexts. You might be a nobody in
one place, lurking around, waiting for others to speak. While in yet
another place, you might have authority. These locations might
co-exist on your computer in the same time frame in different windows.
The cyber identity is a dynamic one and can be molded to one's liking.
This level of diversity might carry on into other places of social

I can see two possible effects; some will switch their persona often
and drastically, while others will even more try to stick to what they
would consider their "true self" in order to survive through the
chaos. Some will lie, and some will hide. Others will speak the truth,
and openly so.


Some people will take the chance to truly become free thinkers, while
others get sucked into the information chaos without forming a true,
meaningful perspective; not afraid of authority, but suspicious about
content; versatile in a variety of different topics, but less true
expertise in a single one; easily grasping new things, and easy to let
go old things; learning fast and forgetting fast; reluctant to one-way
communication or a state of prolonged passiveness; eager to express
and participate; to change and mold, others and themselves, to
constantly teach and learn; to communicate constantly and rapidly, and
be part of the dynamic flow of the global community.

I hope this helps!

Related resources:

Computer-Mediated Communication and Community (by Steve Jones)

Search terms:
"internet transforms society"
"digital age" society
iwannaknow-ga rated this answer:4 out of 5 stars
Thank you again for your answer to my clarification.
I think your opinions are interesting although I probably would not
on a couple of point. Namely that attention spans would decrease. I
think that
they would be more tuned to issues relevant to the individuals and
because of the nature of their relevance the person would have to
focus more time and attention on those issues. Also, while I agree
that face to face (tactile) communication may diminish slightly, I
think its importance will actually increase. While online, you always
have a way out, you can turn the chat off, can disappear from a
newsgroup..etc..etc, but by deciding to meet face to face the person
shows that they are more honest about their feelings in those
Again I thank you for your answer but (and it may be my imagination,
and forgive me if I am wrong) but it seemed to me that your personal
view towards some of these possible changes had a negative undertone.
For example the way you worded "be less respectful to authority" gave
me the impression that you would not like to see some of those
Despite that, I do not believe that internet will remain in its
current state for long as i mentioned before. Authority will find its
way into this medium and with the introduction of such changes as ENUM
proposes the ideas about anonymity on the net will have to be
But this is why google answers is such an interesting medium. You can
always hypothesise.


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