One day, while I was sitting in the living room, I heard the words, “Hey Google, show me ballet practice lessons”. As it is programmed to do, Google obeyed and in no time, hundreds of ballet lessons downloaded. This request was made by a child.
Just then, a thought came to me, what if she asked for something that she wasn’t supposed to? Well, Google would have done its job and rolled out lots of information. I realized how easily information would be made available to that child and how much could be opened up to her instantly. This could be a good thing, but also a scary thought at the same time. The internet can also provide a ‘short cut’ to finding quick answers as I have watched my own daughter recommend “let’s ask Google” several times. Even though her recommendation wasn’t bad in itself, we noticed that it started replacing simple tasks like thinking things through or searching out the meaning of a word from the dictionary.
One of the major problems we face today, is information overload. There is information everywhere, the good, the bad, and the ugly. Surfing through the internet, we can now find in five minutes what would have taken our grandparents years to discover. With just a click, we can know what is happening thousands of miles away in real time as if we were physically there. This again is meant to be a good thing. But the danger for us, especially the younger folks is that the internet is not able to distinguish who is asking.
Growing up, we got all our information from school or our parents. Parents were able to provide appropriate explanations or highlight that “you are not old enough for such topics”. For most children, it worked! You had a choice to either forget about the issue or wait till you were old enough.
The Internet is a great tool, a good source of information and avenue for communication. But it is also like a ‘bottomless pit’ and a border-less space if not well monitored. It sucks users deeper and deeper and has often lead some to experience anxiety, depression, discontentment and even loneliness. Some countries now have Cyber Addiction Rehabilitation Centers to help pull addicted users out of this pit.
It is important to remember that search engines, internet sites and apps are not programmed to distinguish a child’s voice from an adult’s, positive from negative content, truth from lies etc. However, most apps now have built in age restrictions, limitations and child safe features. As parents/guardians, we owe it to our younger ones to moderate their interface with the internet, ensuring that it is a safe space for them. We can teach them early not to be overly dependent on the internet by simply directing them back to resources like Dictionaries, Atlas and Encyclopedias and letting them see us use these resources too. This recommendation may seem archaic, but we need to remember the scripture that says “whoever causes one of this little ones who believe in me to sin, it would be better for him if a millstone was hung around his neck and he were drowned in the depth of the sea” (Matthew 18:6 NKJV). Research also also shows that our over reliance on technology is making us become mentally lazy as we now rely on the internet to think for us. Simply put, the more of ourselves we give to the Cyber world, the more it takes from our Reality!
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