8. Children and the Internet
Like video games, the internet can pose serious problems for children’s cognitive development. Online advertising, inappropriate content, and bad information can all hamper children’s critical faculties. Parents should impose limits, keep an eye on their children’s activity and habits, and spend time browsing the internet with their children and practicing good habits.
The Internet can be an extraordinary tool for developing children’s critical faculties, but, if it’s used without care or reflection, it can quickly become toxic.
Children and internet use
Everything that has been said about video games also applies to various parts of the internet.
Studies have shown that a significant percentage of children have already watched pornographic videos. Just as in the case of video games, these videos can become addictive and have the same effects on critical thinking and reasoning. Moreover, unlimited viewing of pornography from the age of 10 to 12 disturbs children when they are at an important developmental stage.
Also troubling can be the personal channels run by video content creators. Certain channels have millions of followers who are often very young children. Some of this content is, well, drivel, and some inspires violent, provocative, and/or disrespectful behavior.
The Internet is, for this younger generation, the place where the “truth”—the world beyond their limited experience—emerges. Earlier generations had the same relationship to what they saw on television. But the internet has an almost boundless capacity for broadcasting, targeting, and updating.
We must help children learn to evaluate information online by reading and browsing attentively and checking facts.
Internet safety for children
“Fake news” arises from the convergence of this power, the ill intentions of certain agents, and a lack of critical acumen in consumers analyzing information. This is a growing problem. We must help children learn to evaluate information online through attentive reading and fact-checking.
Texts, videos, and photos are always uploaded for a particular reason. We must first teach children, as soon as they start using the internet, that online content on is not necessarily true. This must be repeated tirelessly.
Sources must be viewed as having varying degrees of credibility (something that bears repeating to adults as well). Wikipedia should not be equated with reputable educational institutions like Harvard or Oxford. We should also teach students which sites are reliable for each area of knowledge, whether it be IT, science, or culture.
How should parents monitor their children's internet use
Parental supervision on the internet is essential. Parents should keep quantitative and qualitative surveillance over children’s Internet browsing. For this, parental control software is required. But this is becoming more and more difficult, notably because of mobile phones, which can access the internet in its entirety. It is therefore necessary to spend time browsing with children, to set a good example of healthy browsing habits. Stupid, derisive, pornographic, and violent websites and videos must be forbidden.
Internet risks for children are numerous. That said, we must not lose sight of the fact that the internet also provides a magnificent opportunity to develop children’s critical faculties. If children are guided well by their teachers and parents, they will find many activities to nourish their curiosity, increase their general knowledge, laugh, and encounter artistic (or other) expressions of emotions. They can also be entertained by videos on the art of rhetoric and logic, which are not taught in elementary or primary school.
Excellent content and methodology for developing critical and reasoning faculties can be found on the internet. It is all a question of adults guiding children. The adults themselves must call into question their own use of the internet and their own application of their critical faculties. We can only teach what we know. Here are a few examples of reliable educational content online:
Case Study 5
Case Study 6