Fringe Box



Opinion: Impact of the Internet on Young Minds: Unveiling the Catch-22 of Being a Digital Native

Published on: 16 Jun, 2023
Updated on: 16 Jun, 2023

Joseph Bickle is a young adult born and raised in Guildford, currently studying media and communications at Cardiff University. This summer he will be writing some stories for The Guildford Dragon NEWS. Here he gives his thoughts on the growing number of young people who spend much of their time on the internet and the impact it has on them.

In my opinion, the modern teenager is a fosterling of the internet in the same way they are the progeny of their parents.

Think of it like this. If your child is on their phone or computer from morning to evening, what do you think has a greater effect on them, the internet or their family members?

The answer is the internet. 

For so called ‘digital natives’, the idea of not spending a few hours a day on the internet would seem extraordinary.

Teenagers aged 13 to 18 spend an average of eight hours and 39 minutes on screens every day, whether this be, phone, television, video games or their computer, or all. 

To people less connected to the digital realm, the concept of spending more time a day looking at an LED screen than being outside is somewhat dystopian.

However, for young people, so called ‘digital natives’, the idea of not spending a few hours a day on the internet would seem extraordinary. For the vast majority of young people, the first and last thing they do every day is consume content on the internet.

For some, their excessive use of the internet and social media over several years has led them to begin to class themselves as ‘hyper-online’ – this generally means they are near constantly online either, consuming online media content, engaging in online debate or discourse, or speaking to their online friends. 

The phycological landscape would class someone who identifies themselves as ‘hyper-online’ as someone who suffers from acute internet addiction disorder (IAD).

‘Hyper-online’ are people on the fringes of society

Identifying yourself as ‘hyper-online’ is not a term of endearment, but rather someone coming to terms with their excessive use of the internet. This obsession with virtual spaces can lead to a skewed perception of reality, and an overreliance on online validation.

In my experience, many people who consider themselves to be ‘hyper-online’ are people on the fringes of society, who may have struggled to build relationships in real-life situations, and so, feel more accepted and valued by online communities.

Now, even to me, someone who is engrossed in online culture, the idea of classing yourself as ‘hyper-online’ is a bit morbid as it is essentially admitting you rely on the internet to function, and without it, you have no character or social relationships. 

Venturing on from the realm of a more niche concern surrounding the influence of the internet on a smaller portion of young minds, the most profound impact the online world has had on the mental faculties of the youth surrounds the ease of access to information and content of all kinds.

It is not uncommon for parents to say they don’t know what their children get up to when they’re on the internet. This is often a passing comment made between parents. However, the ramifications of it should not be understated. 

In 2019, The British Board of Film Classification conducted an online survey which found that more than half (51%) of children aged 11 to 13 years old had viewed pornography or NSFW (not safe or suitable for work) content on the internet.

Due to the weak nature of age verifications on NSFW websites, curious pre-teens and even children can easily access every form and type of NSFW content imaginable on porn sites.

It is not uncommon for parents to say they don’t know what their children get up to when they’re on the internet.

While it is hard to measure the extent to which this impacts young people and their growing minds, from my perspective, it would not be fallacious to state that consuming pornography at such a young age would confuse young minds and damage their perception of the nature of relationships between man and women. 

A survey conducted by the Children’s Commissioner found that there are correlations between early exposure to pornography, frequent consumption of pornography and the development of harmful attitudes and behaviours.

The impact the internet has on young people’s interests and lives is undeniable. Through the internet, new generations have experienced an unforeseen level connectedness to diverse communities across the globe and have access to vast number of resources that fuel creativity and encourage them to broaden their horizons. 

However, the immersion of young people in this digital revolution has challenges which must be confronted. By giving a discourse to issues such as ease of access to NSFW content and the dangers of internet addiction, we can ensure that being a digital native becomes a source of empowerment rather than a poison to the mind.

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