Victor's Blog about the Web, Security and Life

The web for me is a hobby where standards and best practices are daily bread. Security is a concern that everybody must be aware of its details for IT in general, and the web in particular, to be a safer place. My life, on the other hand, is that of a regular Lebanese citizen where politics and social issues are discussed on a daily basis. I hope you enjoy reading my blog and make sure to drop me a comment about any topic you find interesting.

Al Jazeera TV: Internet Isolation Effects on Family Members

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victor | 30 June, 2008 18:16

I was a guest on Al Jazeera TV last Saturday. The topic was about the negative effects of the Internet on family members in terms of isolation. You can watch the movie by clicking on the picture below (Real Player required).

Victor Sawma, Al Jazeera TV
Sat. June 28, 2008 23:34 pm

What really bugged me about this TV appearance was the fact that I couldn't finish my topic. The result was a person who masters web technologies talking about the negatives of the web on family members in terms of isolation. I will put the whole topic in here for those who are interested in getting the whole story.

The topic that was being discussed was related to the isolation effects of the Internet on family members. We can all see many people sitting in a room together chatting, smiling, typing, etc. Although these people are sitting together, they are, in reality, not together since each member is enjoying his own virtual Internet world. This fact can cause many negative effects on family members and family ties.
First, it is very important to discuss the main difference between the Web and other media technologies (TV, Radio, etc.). While traditional media technologies are one-way (with some minor limited interactive exceptions), the web is completely interactive and rich. This fact makes the web more popular to human beings including children and parents within families.

Although the web leads to isolation, it is important to understand the reasons behind the isolation (listed below).
  • Working Alone: unlike TV and Radio media where family members gather to watch or listen, children usually work on the internet alone. This is a bounding condition that leaves the family member alone against all the positives and negatives of the web.
  • Children with Psychological / Social Problems: a very important cause for isolation is found with children who face psychological and social problems. A child facing a hard time making friends due to appearance issues or other social issues might use the Internet as an escape from reality. This leads to the child creating his own virtual world and convincing himself / herself of his / her new personality. Thus, leading to more isolation and separation between family members and the society.
  • Unlimited / No Border Medium: Having no limits on the Internet can be seen as a positive and negative characteristic. A child who uses the Internet to bypass borders for collecting information and sharing experience shows a positive edge. On the other hand, some children might use the internet to bypass borders as an escape from confronting social issues in real life. This, as well, leads to more isolation.
  • Social Interaction: Similar to the border case, the Internet helps surfers getting introduced to customs and traditions of other societies. If a child uses this information for the sake of information only, this can be seen as a positive. If a child, however, starts confronting his traditions / customs by introducing other traditions / customs, then this can lead to more isolation as well.
  • Freedom (of what?): The Internet is an anonymous medium where every visitor has no identity verified. Children who use this freedom in a positive manner will sure enjoy a positive experience. Other children who use the Internet to express rage and perform crimes that are locally prohibited by law will surely get addicted to the Internet more and more and, thus, leading to more isolation.

Despite the list of negative effects that the Internet "might" cause to family members, a major factor in determining the influence of the Internet on family members is the awareness of parents. Any child living in a neighborhood might face the same issues listed above. The Internet simply has a higher probability of doing so due to the freedom associated with it. A major positive factor about the Internet, that is usually forgotten, is the ability of parents to control and monitor their children's behaviour and experience. Unlike neighborhoods where monitoring and controlling might be harder to accomplish, the Internet allows parents to transparently monitor and control what their children can do and what not to do.

If parents are aware about how to monitor and control their children Internet experience, then the Internet will for sure play a positive role by allowing parents to guide their children along the way.
If parents, on the other hand, are not aware of Internet controls and monitoring capabilities, then the Internet will become just like any other medium where the child will be living under the mercy of other users, friends, criminals, etc.

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