What is the Internet Doing to Our Brains?
Is the Internet a Positive or Negative?
This is an original draft by David Mayes. Not meant for citation.
The internet has become an amazing tool for students and teachers since it really became a mass information source. The internet has also been the center of many controversial topics. One of these well studied topics is the effect that using the internet has on the human mind. Many studies have shown that the internet can be an amazing source of information and allows people to connect with each other in ways they never have before (Richtel, 2010). There are other researchers who have concluded that the internet is hindering its uses and is slowly decreasing their ability to retain knowledge.
Students who belong to a family that can afford computers, internet and various other forms of technology are more able to access knowledge than those who are of less fortunate families. For this reason many schools have decided to provide students with multiple forms of internet using items. These items range from desktops to iPads and are generally found in larger school systems or more financially capable schools. The problem that many schools will then face is that some students do not have the ability to continue any computer or internet work while at home because they simply do not have the funds and resources to pay for either.
According to The Scientific American, a person who is a digital native, someone who visits the internet often, is able to react to visual stimulation faster than others (Horstman, 2010). The same study also shows that digital natives are able to shift between different types of media more easily. The studies that have looked at students’ minds, in connection with the internet, have shown that the brain is actually more active when doing a search on Google rather than when they are reading a book . The acting researchers included an explanation that contradicts the initial thought of most viewers. The brain may be more active only because a person must continuously make certain decisions that activate certain areas of the brain (Carr, 2010). The key, as these scientist say, is that the brain is retaining knowledge when reading which means that it does not need to work hard to retrieve the knowledge it already has (Digital Nation).
Many courses in the modern world, especially in colleges across America, have turned to the internet to provide knowledge to students. This is very convenient for the average adult who must work and go to school. It was once impossible for a single parent to manage their household, pay bills, work a full time job and go to school full time. With the addition of the internet comes the ability for people to gain a GED or a college degree while balancing the rest of their lives.
With this type of juggling also comes the type of juggling that many children are attempting. In essence, many people believe that they are really good at multitasking. Some may go to the internet and listen to music on Pandora, update their status on Facebook and text their friends while trying to do their homework (Richtel, 2010). Research on this type of activity has shown that multitasking is actually hindering the ability of the test subjects. When they would focus on one item at a time they were more likely to retain knowledge than when they were being stimulated by multiple sources (Digital Nation).
The brain is not only affecting social and educational aspects of life. It also affects many physical aspects of human life, like sleep (Horstman, 2010). People who talk on the phone just before going to bed are more likely to be impacted by insomnia. All of these reasons are reason why the internet is either good or bad. A student has the information of the world at his/her fingertips but can’t focus on their work because they seek instant gratification instead of the slow learning that comes from books.
Carr, N. (2010). What the Internet is Doing to Our Brains: The Shallows. New York: W.W. Norton & Company.
Digital Nation. PBS Network.
Horstman, J. (2010). Scientific American: Brave New Brain. San Francisco: Wiley.
Richtel, M. (2010, November). The internet’s effects on student life. The New York Times. Retrieved from http://www.nytimes.com
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