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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Comments 7 comments

Rusti Mccollum profile image

Rusti Mccollum 4 years ago from Lake Oswego, Oregon

Very interesting, I found it very informative.As an ex teacher I can see how much our children depend on the internet.Following you

breakfastpop profile image

breakfastpop 4 years ago

The internet opens up doors and is a wealth of information, but like everything else it has its dark side.

DREAM ON profile image

DREAM ON 4 years ago

I was so niave to think that the Internet could only be good.I see its downfall but its upside out ways it 1 billion to one.I could never of shared my life with so many at an instant if it wasn't for such marvelous technology.Each of our lives comes down to living and helping others who are living and them helping others long after we are gone.I think that is what makes the world go round,Sharing love.I enjoyed your hub so much.

dwayne1240 profile image

dwayne1240 4 years ago Author

Thank you Rusti, pop and DREAM ON. The internet has so much unrecognized potential. There are so many good things that can be found here, but the detractors are making it a place that educators fear. Hopefully the good will come out and I can use it for it's good. Thanks again.


Niteriter profile image

Niteriter 4 years ago from Canada

I'm very grateful to you, Dwayne. I've always longed to be a native of somewhere or something, but until now my mind has never found any sort of peace on the subject.

My great-great-great-great grandparents immigrated to a British colony; the colony became part of Canada without consulting me (because I wan't born yet, they claim); economic circumstances kicked me out of my small home town into a far-off big city; and I have spent most of my life living like a nomad for reasons that have never been fully explained to me. I have been a resident of nearly everywhere and a native of nowhere.

But now you have given me the sense of belonging that I have been looking for. By golly, I'm a native finally... a DIGITAL native.

That suits me, brother. Thanks a bunch!

Better Yourself profile image

Better Yourself 3 years ago from North Carolina

Very interesting hub! It's nice to know there are some positives to technology but I have found myself to be a little less patient due to technology as well. I agree that internet usage and the high speed aspect makes it hard for me to be patient if its ever running a little slower. Thanks for sharing!

dwayne1240 profile image

dwayne1240 3 years ago Author

Thank you for reading Better Yourself. I enjoy technology and find myself getting mad about loading times not being instant. Things have changed.

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