According to Google, the internet is a network providing a variety of information and communication facilities. There has been tremendous development in the field of communications due to the internet. As time passes, there has been an astounding expansion in internet technologies. However, the risks associated with internet users haven’t been minimized. The risks due to the use of the internet have made this world a risky place. Likewise, the disadvantages are more when the youth uses the internet. According to The New York Times, Rebecca Ann Sedwick, a 12 years old girl jumped to her death after enduring a year of cyberbullying by two girls aged 12 and 14. Moreover, the writer Lizette Alvarez mentioned in an article in The New York Times that Rebecca was so distressed and began to hurt herself when she was bullied. To make the internet safe for youth, there should be age restrictions on the use of the internet because internet use has aggressive, psychological, and sexual risks to youths.
According to history.com, the evolution of the internet started on October 4, 1957, when the Soviet Union launched the world’s first manmade satellite in the orbit. Moreover, history.com states that the growth of the internet started at the end of 1967. However, the cold war brought a revolution in the invention and development of the internet. In addition, the internet was used as a medium of communication during the cold war. History.com stated that the internet brought a new platform to communicate with allies during the cold war. Nowadays, internet use has grown too much which brought more disadvantages than its advantages.
Aggressive risks are the risks carried out by a group or individuals against a victim who cannot easily defend him or herself (Smith, del Barrio & Tokunaga, 2013; Smith et al., 2008; 376). Aggressive risks can be carried through the internet, texts, and personally. Cyberbullying is an aggressive risk carried out by a person to a person through different platforms of communication. Bullying has more negative effects on the youth. Bullies are more likely to report frequent alcohol use when compared to non-bullies (Kaltiala-Heino et al, 2000; Nansel et al., 2001). Additionally, bully victims, those bullying others as well as those being bullied themselves, are more likely to experience academic challenges, problems with alcohol and drug use, loneliness, and poor peer relations (Mynard & Joseph, 1997; Kaltiala-Heino et al 2000; Ericson, 2001; Nansel et al., 2001). The number of internet users is increasing, which leads increase in cyberbullying. Hinduja and Patchin stated that 20% of 11-18-year-olds have been a victim of cyberbullying (2012b). According to an article from Huffington Post, youths do not have enough decision power to make smart decisions online, and as a result, youths are more likely to be bullied when compared to adults (Graber, 230). Moreover, depressive symptoms, excessive psychosomatic symptoms, and neuroticism are significantly more likely seen in bully victims when compared to a youth not involved in bullying (Mynard & Joseph, 1997; Kaltiala-Heino et al, 2009). The growth in the number of youth internet users has increased the risks associated with the use of the internet.
The internet has psychological effects on the brains of youth, which include depression, attention deficit, hyperactivity disorder, social isolation, and low self-esteem (Griffiths, Young, Rodgers, Yen, Ko, Yang, Wu, Pallanti, Bernardi, Gundogar, Bakim, Ozer, and Karamustafalioghu). The majority of internet users have some degree of problematic behavior (Hardie, and Tee). Attention deficit affects the youth’s academic progress, resulting in low grasping power. A survey from Hearst Communication found that the productivity levels of youths that use social networking sites were 1.5% lower than those who do not use social networking sites. Also, youth’s use of the internet correlates with less sleep and more irregular sleep, which in turn is related to poorer perceived health (Punamaki et al., 2007). Additionally, 3.9% of internet users reported some negative changes in their behavior (Evgeny and Morozov). The psychological changes can be seen in youth after a prolonged period of time.
Sexual risks are the most painful risks associated with the use of the internet. The youths are more likely to encounter sexual content online than in any other media. The sexual risks include pornography, stranger danger, and sexting (Livingstone, and Smith). According to Google, pornography is printed or visual material containing the explicit description intended to stimulate erotic feelings rather than aesthetic or emotional feelings. Pornography is the most fatal sexual risk associated with internet use. 15% of 10-12-year-olds and 28% of 16-17-year-olds have been exposed to a kind of sexual content and one-third from them had been bothered or had been upset after watching that (Jones, Mitchell, and Finkelhor, 2012:181). Also, Brown and L’Engle (2009:138) stated from the results of a survey that 66% of 14 years old boys have watched X-rated movies; however, 21% of 12 years old girls also reported that they watched X-rated movies in the past year. Moreover, exposure to sexual objects reduces the mood of youths (Hardie, and Tee), especially in individuals addicted to pornography (Griffiths). In addition, a reduction in mood affects the youth’s mental health.
Stranger danger is the problem faced due to the sharing of personal information or data with an unknown person (Livingstone, and Smith). Stranger danger includes blackmailing, kidnapping, rape, and murder (Livingstone, and Smith). Also, in a survey carried out by Jones et al. (2012;180) on 10-17 years old youths, 2% of 10-12-year-olds reported that they were contacted by a stranger through the internet; however, the figure changed to 14% among 16-17-year-olds.
Sexting is an unhealthy sexual risk related to internet use. Sexting is a combined form of sex and texting (Ringrose, Gill, Livingstone, and Harvey, 2012). Moreover, sexting includes the exchange of naked pictures, and texts between two or a group of people (Livingstone et al., 2011b; Childline, 2012). Additionally, 15% of 11-16-year-olds had seen or received a sexual message online, and a quarter of them reported being bothered by those texts (Livingstone et al., 2011b; Baumgartner et al., 2010b; Ringrose et al., 2012). Also, the risks of sexting were more often encountered by older teenagers; however, a higher proportion of girls and younger children found them upsetting (Livingstone et al., 2011b; Baumgartner et al., 2010b; Ringrose et al., 2012).
The change in technology gave birth to high-speed internet which made our life much easier than before. The Internet has made our life easier by reducing the time consumed for getting information, and communication. However, the internet is like a coin; one side has advantages, and the other side has disadvantages linked with internet use. The disadvantages of internet users are more when youth uses the internet. Moreover, there should be certain restrictions on the use of the internet. To make internet use safe, the government should introduce more laws regarding the age restriction on internet use. On the other side, parents should restrict internet access to youth at home. Conclusively, to save youths and future generations from turning the wrong way to success there should be age restrictions on the use of the internet. Also, safe browsing alternatives should be introduced for internet users. It is important to invest in our young people and the internet safety of future generations.
- Alvarez, Lizette. ‘Girl’s Suicide Points to Rising in Apps Used by Cyberbullies.’ The New York Times 13 Sept. 2013: 9.
- Graber, Diana. ‘3 Reasons Why Social Media Age Restrictions Matter.’ Huffington Post 08 Oct. 2014: 230.
- Livingstone, Sonia and Smith, Peter K. “Annual Research Review: Harm Experienced by child user of online and mobile technologies: the nature, prevalence, and management of sexual and aggressive risks in the digital age.” Journal of child Psychology and Psychiatry, vol.55, Issue no. 6, 2014, pp. 635-654. The Association for Child and Adolescent Mental Health, doi:10.1111/jcpp.12197
- Romano M, Osborne LA, Truzoli R, Reed P (2013) Differential Psychological Impacts of Internet Exposure on Internet Addicts. PLoS ONE 8(2); e55162. doi:10.1371/journal.pone.0055162
- Spies Shapiro, Lauren A., and Gayla Margolin. ‘Growing Up Wired: Social Networking Sites and Adolescent Psychosocial Development.’ Clin Child Fam Psychol Rev 1.17 (2014): 1-18.
- Ybarra, Michele K., and Mitchell, Kimberly J. “Youth engaging in online harassment: associations with caregiver-child relationships, Internet use, and personal characteristics.” Journal of Adolescence, Vol.27, 2004, pp. 319-336. The Association for professional in Services for Adolescents, doi:10.1016/j.adolescents.2004.03.007