The Internet – a distraction or a force of good for your teenager?

The Internet – a distraction or a force of good for your teenager?


It is difficult to imagine doing much these days without a computer as it dominates every aspect of our lives. Young people even access the Internet more than we adults do. It is not good enough being busy on the Internet. For all you know, they could be Facebook, playing games or researching Shakespeare. What the most important question to ask is: are computers making them more productive and learned individuals?


Gone are those days when in order to research pieces of information that we take for granted these days, it was necessary to go to a library and spend endless time either looking for the correct books or browsing through slides. Thanks to Internet search engines such as Google, it now takes a fraction of the time it used to take to find vital information. Despite the fact that information can be found at breathtaking speeds, there are all sorts of issues associated with using a computer that neutralises its positive effect. In fact, in some cases, it is less time-efficient. The key issue here is the temptation to drift off and get distracted. Even the most disciplined person often ends up being tempted and is prone to getting distracted and spending time on other things rather than what they have gone onto the Internet to find in the first place.


Using a computer is one thing, connecting it to the Internet is another. For most people, these two things are interlinked. One can get onto the Internet using a mobile phone, a tablet and all sorts of other devices.


If your teenage son or daughter spends a lot of time on the Internet – perhaps on Facebook, telling you that they are revising or asking their friends questions on Facebook and so forth, please ask questions and try to establish if this is the best way to revise or to find the information they need. Some teachers even commit the ‘ultimate sin’ by giving their Facebook details to students and encourage them to interact this way. I certainly think this ought to be discouraged at all costs. If a school has some sort of online forum as a way of getting students and teachers to interact educationally, that’s fine. Facebook or other social networks is not the way to do it. Many young people pick up reckless browsing habits from their teachers in school, as teachers compete for being liked or using reliance on the Internet as an alternative to planning their lessons in advance. This is a huge issue, which is worth exploring and which I will tackle in a future blog.


For me as a teacher, I find it very useful to use computer animations in teaching Physics, as you can find excellent programmes that are very helpful in simulating something which may be less fun to try to explain. However, in a typical one-hour lesson, I tend to spend an absolute maximum of 5 minutes on a computer. What is key is advance preparation. I prefer to use material that is not on the Internet but on a disc or stored in the hard drive of my computer. It is inevitable to end up using the Internet at times. What has to be done is to visit the web page in advance of the lesson and know precisely the material you want to access. In fact, it is better to copy the URL for those web pages in a Word file or something, click the link to go directly to that web page when you need to teach it, show what you need to show and turn off the computer. After all, exams are still written with a pen and paper.


Too many incompetent teachers are too happy to entertain young people by showing them videos on You-Tube all day and wasting young people’s time browsing the Internet unnecessarily. The Internet is just a tool and when used effectively it can be very productive. When used recklessly, it can be extremely distracting and an utter waste of time.


At this time of the year many young people have started to study their last module(s) before beginning to prepare for the summer examinations. It is important how well they invest their time as this is key to their success in the summer examinations.


In a television interview over a decade ago, an orthodox Jewish man described television as a sewer running through people’s living rooms. While I won’t quite go that far I would say that the Internet can, in many ways, be described as a huge pile of dung littered with gold and diamonds. Like many things, the main task is filtering the diamonds out of the dung. The Internet is an excellent source of information and a vital education tool. However, it must be used very cautiously, especially by young people.


In my next blog, I will be exploring practical steps to limit the damage that the Internet can do to young people’s education.

Veritabanına bağlanırken hata oluştu: Too many connections