Many parents see the Internet as a distraction for their pre-teen and teenage children. They see the disadvantages that can come with spending time online – social media, addiction, and bullying, just to name a few. Other parents simply don’t have the money for a computer or internet access.
What these parents don’t realize is that the lack of internet access at home actually puts their children at a disadvantage when it comes to their education. These children may have internet availability at school, but without it at home, students may not be able to finish their work on time.
A study at Oxford University showed that teenagers without internet access are at a disadvantage educationally. The study, which looked at 1,000 families from 2008 to 2011, showed that parents who focus on the disadvantages of the internet rather than the advantages are doing a disservice to their children.
There are many advantages to allowing pre-teens and teenagers access to the internet.
Here are a few:
- Homework and Research. While students may have internet access at school, there probably isn’t enough time to get all their coursework completed, especially if there are many students who need to use the school’s computers. Internet access at home also allows students to research in depth about a particular topic, such as for a term paper or science project.
- Security. Students accessing a public computer are vulnerable to security compromises, such as someone stealing their personal information or even copying their research. Using a computer at home provides a more secure environment, especially when security software is installed.
- Interests. If a particular subject – such as biology or art – is of great interest to a student, they can explore it in greater depth at home. There likely isn’t enough free time for a student to accomplish this at school.
- Better Access. Schools may filter content to the point that even safe sites are inaccessible. Unfiltered (yet supervised) access at home can allow for better research.
- News. Students can learn more about current events – such as politics, natural disasters, and world news – on the internet. The information is updated often, especially when compared to print media. Students without internet access at home will have difficulty discussing current events during class.
- Social Media. The use of social media by students is a highly debated topic in and of itself. But even so, social media can be a benefit to students. They can ask their peers for clarification on assignments. Social media can bring out confidence in a quiet and shy student.
- Tutoring. Online tutors are available if a student needs additional help in a particular subject area. Many of these tutors are inexpensive or even free. This is especially helpful when parents are at work and don’t have time to help with homework, or the parents themselves don’t understand the homework assignment. YouTube provides instructional videos which can also be useful when additional help is needed.
- Assignments and Grades. Some teachers prefer to post class information online. Students without internet access at home may have trouble finding out their assignments and grades.
- School Information. Information such as the school calendar, lunch menu, and emergency closings will be available on the internet.
Given the broad scope of the internet, and the dangers and illegal activity that lie within, parents should monitor their child’s access to the internet. But unplugging their internet access completely is not going to help them when it comes to their education.
Contributor: Amy Kirkegaard is a freelance writer who writes on a variety of topics, including social media, online reputation management, and bachelor degree careers. She previously worked in marketing and human resources for an oilfield equipment manufacturer.