For all the advantages in terms of convenience, speed and delivery that the internet has provided to the average consumer and household, there are increasing concerns as to its influence on social conduct and etiquette. These concerns are centered on the fact that the premise of the World Wide Web has been outweighed by its impact, and despite its supposed benefits to individuals and families alike, it is often citied as a prominent factor in decreasing values and social behavioural trends.
The fact remains that while consumers can purchase and internet users can seek information through the vast resources of the internet, there is less and less need to venture into the outside world and communicate with other human beings through traditional conversation. This type of secluded environment in which young adults are thrust can contribute towards a restricted and introverted outlook on life, and in extreme cases develop anti-social behavioural trends amongst users.
Internet Usage and Education
One of the primary concerns around internet usage is its influence on the education of teenagers and young adults. With regards to the vast resources available on the World Wide Web, there are two schools of thought. One would consider that the diversity of information and opinion is beneficial to further education, and actively encourages the development of a considered point of view. However, there is a further notion that the internet’s depth of resource and often uncensored nature is confusing for impressionable minds and often contradictory to curriculum teaching.
One of the main issues is the increase amongst supposedly uneducated individuals who use to internet on a daily basis. While academic progress and ability is no guarantee of intelligence, those who have endured a lengthy and structured education are generally considered to be more rounded in terms of their knowledge, assertiveness and social integration. In contrast, individuals without the benefit of this experience are less receptive to certain information and also more limited in their social interactions.
Over 50 percent of all internet users over the age of 18 are without a high school education. This statistic is revealing, as it suggests that more than half of people who use the internet on a daily basis may already be lacking in knowledge of education structures and particular types of human interaction. This arguably renders them vulnerable to the vast information streams and outlets available on the internet, as they may be less equipped to judge informational resources against what they have learned in their formative educational experiences.
An Increase in all Age Ranges
Certainly, all age demographics have seen a vast increase in internet usage since the year 2000. The most extreme instances of more frequent usage are featured in people aged 30 and older, whereas the figures for adults aged between 18 and 29 have continued to rise steadily in the same time period. This is alongside statistics that suggest that an ever increasing number of teenagers aged between 12 and 17 are using the internet, with varying levels of censorship and parental guidance.
There are now nearly 3 times as many internet users over the age of 60 as there were at the turn of the century. This figure is indicative of the enhanced prominence that computers and the World Wide Web plays in contemporary culture, and the simple fact that the older generation of society are being coerced into using the internet in order to perform standard and everyday tasks. This trend in usage in also displayed in the demographics between 30 and 49 and 50 and 64 years old, with percentage increases of approximately 30 and 40 respectively.
The 18 to 29 age demographic has witnessed a 20 percent increase in internet usage since the year 2000, which while being a more gradual progression is still indicative of the rising trend. This age range is the most vulnerable to diverse and uncensored internet resource, as people in their late teenage years and early twenties are still developing maturing both mentally and physically. This means that they are still maturing in terms of their mindset and social etiquette, and an overload of visual and written information can be overwhelming and counterproductive to opinion forming.
A Social Consideration
There is little doubt that the internet has brought huge improvements in the access that society has to information and purchasing methods. However, questions remain as to whether young and immature minds can cope with such a powerful tool and its diversity of conflicting information. The main issue is that sensory overload can confuse values and under developed opinions, and actually confuse any decision making process. Secondary to this, it is arguable that the more activities that an individual can conduct online then the less time they will devote to social interaction and traditional communication methods. This is potentially dangerous to younger and more vulnerable members of society, who can be rendered socially inept and poorly equipped in workplace and face to face interactions.