Childhood is all about exploration. Through the interactive world of technology, our children are being shaped by their exploration of computers and the Internet. The modern computer and the Internet offer today’s children a powerful device that, if used appropriately, can enhance the development of the child’s physical, cognitive, and social skills. Children get interested because they can make things happen with the Internet. The Internet is a powerful tool that is revolutionizing our children’s learning, communication and play.
Impact on Physical Development
It may not seem to the naked eye that exposure to the Internet would have a positive effect on the physical development of children. However, knowledge of muscular development and motor control skills leads us to deduce that regular Internet usage would naturally enhance a child’s eye-hand coordination and fine motor skills due to keyboard and mouse usage. There is no known existing research on the topic of the relationship between the physical development of children and the Internet.
Impact on Cognitive Development
Children who use the Internet show gains in cognitive abilities such as memory, spatial and logical problem solving, critical thinking, concentration, abstraction and comprehension. The Internet exposes children to information to improve the quality of learning that they can transform into knowledge. Through the use of the Internet, children’s language and literacy development is often promoted, allowing for greater gains in verbal and nonverbal skills.
Impact on Social Development
The Internet cannot and should not replace human interaction or relationships, nor take the place of activities such as sharing verbal conversations with our children or reading together. However, if properly used, the Internet can serve as a medium for acceptable social interaction (Scoter & Railsback, 2001). The Internet allows children to socialize with other children through the use of email, chat rooms, and instant messaging, increasing the development of communication and social skills. As children use the Internet to connect with places around the world and exchange mail with electronic pen pals, they are able to share different cultures and traditions.
Often the use of Internet in classrooms allows the children to work together, encouraging the sharing of ideas and cooperative learning. Students that find conventional methods of learning difficult will frequently find learning via the Internet to be fun. From this positive experience these children improve their attitudes about learning while enhancing their curiosity and self-concept. Many parents whose children use the Internet in school believe that the Internet has improved their child’s overall attitude toward school. “Education is also the single most common motivation parents cite for their children to use the Internet from home” (National School Board Foundation, n.d., para 6). The Internet allows children to actively participate in an independent learning environment.
Besides being used as an educational tool, the Internet also provides entertainment. According to Tapscott (n.d.), “Children can use it to find inspiration, stimulate the imagination, explore the world, meet others and gain new experiences. The process is known as play. Play has its own pursuit of amusement, competition, and companionship - all which can be fulfilled on the Internet” (para. 1). Though it is no true replacement for physical social play, the Internet offers uniques alternatives, which are especially important for those that are physically disabled and unable to engage in physical play.
The Internet today is part of our children’s natural environment. According to Tapscott (1999, as cited in Affanso, 1999), “…when kids are online, they’re reading, thinking, analyzing, criticizing and authenticating - composing their thoughts. Kids use computers for activities that go hand-in-hand with our understanding of what constitutes a traditional childhood. They use the technology to play, learn, communicate and form relationships as children always have. Development is enhanced in an interactive world” (Conclusion section, para. 1). Truly, the Internet has become a daily part of many children’s lives. It is little wonder that it has such a pervasive effect on their social development.