Friday, February 03, 2006


  • Internet addiction

  • Essay:  Many are of the opinion that the Internet is inundating our children with dangerous information.  There is, however, no doubt that the Internet represents great advances in communication and the dissemination of information.  Discuss the pros and cons of the Internet.


  • Introduction

  • The advantages of the Internet

  • A brief history of the Internet

  • The reach of the Internet

  • Communication

  • Convenience and speed

  • The disadvantages of the Internet

  • Security

  • Addiction to the Internet

  • Common causes of stress                  

  • Conclusion

  • The Internet as a force for good or the Internet as a potential force for evil

  • Personal responsibility

       F.  References

  1. Introduction

The Internet represents the most astounding development in technology in modern times.  The telegraph, telephone, television and radio preceded it and set the stage for its unprecedented capabilities in the integration of global communication. [1]

For the people who had a hand in its development, people like Barry M. Leiner, Robert E. Khan, Leonard Kleinrock, and Stephen Wolff, to name but a few, and for us, the users of the Net, it is, ‘one of the most successful examples of the benefits of sustained investment and commitment to research and development of information infrastructure.’ [1]
In laymen’s terms, the Internet has brought us ‘the enormous growth of all kinds of “people-to-people” traffic. [1]  

The influence and interest that the Internet has generated worldwide, and is still continuing to generate is pervasive.  On a recent trip to Tokyo, 14 magazines devoted to the Internet, and written in English, were seen in one bookstore alone.  Now, sending emails instead of letters is so convenient and so fast that conventional surface postal mail is known as ‘snail mail’.  

  1. A brief history of the Internet
It all started, as they say, as early as 1966, when researchers based at MIT developed what was to become the forerunner to the Internet.    In 1969, Kleinrock from UCLA and others, who had been working on developments in the field, made the Network Measurement Center at UCLA the first node on ARPANET. [1] Shortly afterwards, the first host-to-host message was sent.  Subsequently, further additional nodes were added and a network of interconnected computers was created.

By the end of that year, other host computers were connected, and the ARPANET, the infant Internet had come into being.

Since those early beginnings, the words of J.C.R. Licklider of MIT; that he ‘envisioned a globally interconnected set of computers through which everyone could quickly access data and programs from any site’ have materialized; the Internet is up and running and provides its millions of users with those facilities.
However, probably the most important issue related to the future of the Internet is not how technology will change, though that is undoubtedly important, but how the process of change and evolution itself will be managed, and how and whether the Internet can be controlled and policed so that it continues to live up to the ideals that its initial designers had in mind when they took the first steps in creating it.

  1. The advantages of the Internet

  1. The reach of the Internet
The reach of the Internet is global, not restricted to any particular geographical location.  The only proviso is that a potential user has a computer and usually, a telephone link.  Of course, this does severely limit access to the Net, and currently, the online population of the world is estimated to be in the region of 729 million people. [2]

35.8% of these use the English language, 14.1% Chinese, 9.6% Japanese, 9% Spanish, and 7.3% German, reflecting, broadly, the distribution and scope of language use globally.  [2]

Expressed in economic parlance, the Internet is responsible for 31.3% of  world economy in European languages other than English, which translates to a massive Gross Domestic Product of $12, 968 Billion.  Even in a small country such as Iceland, the Internet generates $6 billion of that country’s GDP.  [2]

In advertising alone, the amount of revenue spent on the Internet totaled nearly $2.3 billion during the first three months of 2004. [3]

ii) Communication
  Apart from the advantages to trade and advertising indicated by the figures given above, the Internet has speeded up methods of communication.  As stated earlier, email users now refer to conventional surface mailing systems as ‘snail mail’, meaning that it is funereally slow in comparison to electronic mail.  The Internet has been responsible for the greatest improvement in communications since those other inventions, the telephone, television and radio.

  1. Convenience and speed
The speed of the Internet is measured in bits, which can travel at the speed of light. [8] Early modems could transfer information at speeds of 300 bps (bits per second).  However, recent advances mean that data can now be transferred at 56,000 bps.  Still, there is the limitation of the phone line network.  Every user knows that the speed of the Internet varies with the time of day one is trying to get online.  During peak hours, access can be infuriatingly slow, while at other times it can be surprisingly rapid. [8]  There is no doubt though that the Internet provides its users with an incredible diversity of services available online, and all at the click of the mouse.  Practically anything from an airline ticket to a take-away meal for two can be ordered and paid for online.

  • The disadvantages of the Internet

  • Security
Despite the numerous advantages of the Internet, there are many disadvantages too.  Would-be Internet users need a computer, of course, and a telephone link to a server, although the Internet can be accessed in certain areas in towns and cities without a line.  Most people need a telephone line, however.  One of the main worries people have about using the Internet, though, concerns issues of security, particularly when divulging credit card details when purchasing on line, for instance.  Web sites can learn a lot about you when you cruise the Net. [4]
Hackers can obtain information you send online, and forms you fill out, credit card details and any other personal information can be the subject of ‘sniffing’ by hackers. However, most sites that allow you to make credit purchases are secure; your message and their message back to you are both encrypted, making it practically impossible for someone ‘listening in’ to decode the transmissions. [4]

Cookies - little bits of information deposited on your computer – are generally good for you, though some can sometimes be a nuisance, returning over and over again to enable web sites you have visited to recognize you and to keep track of how you like things.  Sometimes though, cookies are made to save information that you do not necessarily want other people to have, an example being your email address.  Divulging this can mean you get junk mail from other sources.  In newer browsers, a cookie can only be retrieved by the web page that deposited it, though that is not the case with some older browsers.

The publicizing of recent events has made more people aware of the dangers to children posed by the Internet, particularly if children access the Internet without supervision.  Several things need to be made clear here.  First of all, there are some sites online that are not suitable for children, to put it mildly, and adequate supervision and checks are needed to ensure that children do not access such sites.  Unfortunately these days, many children have computers in their bedrooms and can access sites without their parents knowing.  Only proper instruction and trust can eliminate this problem, although computers do record which sites have been visited, and many severs now block sites that are deemed to be unsuitable for access by users.

Divulging their complete identities in ‘chat rooms’ has led children to be abused by persons pretending to be friends.  “The Internet is like life in the city, there are nice neighbourhoods and not so nice neighbourhoods.”  It is impossible to tell who is who through a computer link to the Internet, and parents and teachers should inform children of the dangers they face by giving away such information. [4]

Identity theft is ‘the deliberate assumption of another person’s identity, usually to gain access to their credit or frame them for some crime.’ 5
This kind of offence, it is said, is the fastest growing type of misdemeanor in North America today. [5]

Even though credit card identity theft costs American businesses a staggering $5 billion per year, companies are loath to make credit card information secure since that would make it more difficult for buyers and would probably discourage them from purchasing online. [5]

This being the case, it makes sense to limit how often you use your credit online, and keep a close check on accounts that are used for online purchases or at ATM machines.  Regular checking is much more efficient than waiting for your monthly statement from the bank.

Finally, to reduce the possibility of your becoming a victim of identity theft for whatever reason, limit the amount of personal information you publish on the web.
ii)Addiction to the Internet
Addiction to anything is harmful, and the Internet is no exception.  Using the Internet, like other activities such as writing, is a lonely use of one’s time.  Apart from the dangers formerly mentioned online, too much time spent in front of a computer may damage your eyesight, and it will certainly reduce the time you spend with others.

  • Common causes of computer stress
Although computers are useful, and the Internet can be a valuable tool in helping you to organize your life, both can nevertheless be a great source of stress.  In fact, it is said that stress from working with a computer is the same as stress from any other facet of life. [7]

Doctor Morton C. Orman M.D. suggests 10 common causes of computer stress. [7]
Failing to anticipate problems  
By not using backup files, you are heading for a fall when crashes occur.
Trying to get by on the cheap
Saving money buying sub-standard equipment usually does not help.
Failing to ask for help
Trying to go it alone and not asking for help and advice from others adds to your exasperation with the problems you encounter through your own inexperience or lack of know-how.
Failing to relate stress as feedback
Instead of blaming the technology when things go wrong, be both philosophical and practical.  Things can and do go wrong, and it is invariably the users fault.  Realize that and you are half way there.
Trying to cut corners
Using hardware without even looking at the manual is one recipe for heartache later.  The new “Plug and play’ mentality doesn’t help.
Unrealistic expectations
Expecting everything to work the way you want it to do is hardly realistic.
Beating up on yourself unnecessarily
When you make mistakes you are showing that you are human.  Everybody does it.
Conflicts with other people
Sharing a computer is often stressful, as is waiting for replies to ‘urgent’ emails.
Failing to do your homework
More research means better results.  Less means worse.
Compromising your own or others’ integrity
Using without buying or acknowledging is wrong, and you know it.  Why do you do it when you know it will lead to problems later? [7]

Finally, the more you understand and concentrate on the real, underlying causes of computer related stress, the more you will come to terms with it, understand it, and suffer less from it.

2. How to find out if you are addicted to the Internet
An Internet Stress Survey is available online, and you would be well advised to take it, if you think you are at risk of being addicted to the Internet. [6]

Questions range from: ‘Do you think you are spending more time than you should surfing the Internet?’ to ‘Have you tried, unsuccessfully, to curtail you use of the Net?’   If you answered ‘Yes’ to 7 out of the 9 questions asked, you may well be addicted. [6]

Dr. Orman [9] suggests there are certain basic elements all addictions have in common, and addiction to the Internet is no different.

All addiction involves a certain amount of denial, which seems to be a vital ingredient, for without denial no addiction would become established. People tell themselves they don’t have a problem, and that’s when there is a problem.
Failing to ask for help
Denial, of course, is accompanied by a failure, or at least a reluctance, to ask for help.  “I can beat this thing myself,” is a commonplace here.  Asking the wrong kinds of people, and not taking advice from the right sort is also common with addicts.  Professional help is often the best, chiefly because it is the best informed, and also because it is given disinterestedly.
Lack of other pleasures
People who lack other stimuli in their life are at risk from becoming addicted.  People who spend a lot of time looking at their computer screens are often described as ‘nerds’.  What is important is to have something to replace the addiction, something that will give you pleasure or interest or both and which is not addictive.
Underlying deficiencies in coping and life management skills
Addictions are usually symptomatic of other deficiencies, which may be the reason why many addiction therapies are not successful; they treat the addiction in isolation, when it is really part of something bigger.  Attempts to overcome loneliness lead many people into repetitive behaviour that can turn into addiction.  The addiction stems from another problem in a person’s life.  Dealing with one without the other will invariably be ineffective.
Giving in to temptation
When giving anything up -‘cold turkey’ – makes a return almost irresistible.  Anyone who has given up smoking knows the truth of that statement.  Mastering your thoughts means resisting urges, and overcoming temptation.  Like people giving up smoking, staying clear of the stimulus is vital.  Get rid of the cigarettes from your lounge and you lessen that chance that you will be tempted back to smoking.  Not turning on the computer, or going out whenever you feel the urge to go online coming on will help you cope with the difficulty of resisting temptation.
Failing to keep your word
This is similar to not giving in to temptation; it is not deceiving yourself, not making excuses for yourself, and keeping your word.  Lying to others may be easy for some, but lying to oneself never is.
Failing to do what may be necessary
Setting a schedule for action to be taken is the key to beating an addiction to anything.  With Internet addiction, they might range from setting an absolute time you spend on the Net daily, placing self-imposed restraints on certain types of service that you find ‘pleasurable’, and often not of vital importance to your life, applying these restraints until you are out of danger, finding other things to do besides spending time on the Net, asking for help from others, to avoiding the environments that encourage you to return to your addictive behaviour.  This last one could, for instance, involve going shopping in a mall that does not have an Internet café, rare as that might be.
Failing to anticipate and deal with relapses
Finally, situations will inevitably arise, after you appear to have kicked the habit, which drive you back to the addiction.  Overcoming loneliness to remove the root cause of an addiction might not be permanent.  Relationships fail, and have to be dealt with so that subsequent and dependent problems do not re-occur. [9]
D. Conclusion
  1. The Internet as a force for good or as a potential force for evil
Like all technological innovations, the technology itself is neutral with regard to its uses.  It is an inanimate object.  No blame can attach to it.  It is ultimately the uses and abuses man puts it to that are right or wrong in a moral sense.  Unfortunately, the universality of the Internet means that no single body, be it a national government or an internationally recognized body such as the United Nations, is able to exert any meaningful control over what goes onto the world wide web.

  1. Personal responsibility and
            accountability: the ultimate answer
Like the world in which we live and in which the Internet exists, the forces of good and evil are ranged on either side and no amount of pontification will alter that fact.  Where it is possible to encourage good in people, it should be done, and where it is feasible to discourage bad in people, that should also be done.  However, and be that as it may, each and every one of us using the Internet has a duty to ensure that our children and our young adults, and especially the most vulnerable in society, do not suffer because of it.







  7. Orman M. C. (1996) Common Causes of Computer Stress  In.


  9. Orman M.C. (1996) What to do if you are (Or fear that you may become) addicted to the Internet    In.

  10. Disadvantages of the Internet  In.


Post a Comment

Subscribe to Post Comments [Atom]

<< Home