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Literacy and Internet Abuse

The Internet has both good and bad impact on students’ literacy, and thus there have been arguments surrounding the issue whether it improves or decreases the literacy level. The Internet contains vast quantities of information which makes it possible for students to conduct research using multiple resources that were not available during the pre-Internet era. It is, however, argued that some of the sources on the Internet do not meet the required academic standards and students may use unverified or incorrect information from the sites that are not academically approved. Therefore teachers and instructors face a dilemma on whether to authorize the Internet use as a research tool. Some of them try to dissuade students against using some Internet sources and encourage them to use approved academic books and journals. However, in the digital era, students believe that they can get any information they want online and most of them rarely use books and journals which they find to be cumbersome and complex unlike Internet sources which are simple and straightforward.
Nowadays, most students ignore all the other sources if information as the Internet has become the sole source of research and information. Educationists are concerned about the fact that while students may have the technological know-how on accessing information on the Internet, they are deficient in devising effective online research techniques and they are also unable to verify the authenticity and accuracy of online information. Students may be acquiring high volumes of information online but the Internet use as the sole resource has compromised academic standards.
The fact that the Internet provides easy and quick access to information has driven the urge by students to utilize the Internet exclusively. However, many students fail to distinguish accurate information from the inaccurate one. Students blindly accept information on the Internet and even use blogs and websites that are run by non-academicians and other young people as references. For students to utilize Internet information effectively, they need to be educated on information literacy so that they can develop the skills and knowledge required to access information effectively and efficiently; and to conduct accurate assessment of any information they come across on the Internet.
Students should be taught how to use the five index criteria of coverage, currency, objectivity, authority, and accuracy whenever they decide to use the Internet as a source of information. Coverage means that the students must evaluate the mode of presentation of the information; determine whether the information provided is in-depth or cursory; and determine whether text, statistics, and graphics have been used effectively. Currency means that students should look for information that is not outdated and they should consider whether the site, links, and the contents are up-to-date. They should also consider whether the information on the site is regularly reviewed and re-updated. Objectivity means that students must be diligent and must take time to assess whether the work reveals biases and prejudices on the part of the author and whether the information is meant to excite or manipulate the reader rather than to inform. Authority means that the students must evaluate the background of the author; the author’s credentials and qualifications; and whether the information is approved by a reputable professional organization. Accuracy means that the information provided must be truthful, reliable as well as verifiable.
On the other hand, the Internet has increased the technological literacy among students as they are able to research and organize information. Technological literacy is, however, not enough in the demanding digital society. Students must also be able to retrieve, apply, and present the obtained information to others. It is impossible to acquire full literacy by solely relying on the Internet. Internet literacy must always be complemented with classroom skills. The current generation of students has grown up being more technologically accepting, literate and savvy. The Internet has become an integral part of students’ life. They can do a lot of things online ranging from listening to music, watching movies, socializing with friends, studying and even shopping.
Due to many opportunities availed by the Internet, it has become increasingly difficult for students to concentrate on learning which is deemed boring. The Internet is producing a generation of students who are illiterate about ethical use of information. The time spent doing wasteful things on the Internet should be spent on education which is more important for future success of the students. Communication and entertainment needs are being fulfilled at the expense of acquisition of the necessary levels of skills and knowledge.
Literacy is not the mere ability to know how to operate software and applications. It involves being able to locate information, apply, and utilize it effectively. It also involves being able to understand basic research strategies that are required in a specific discipline and course; comprehension of the different ways in which information is structured and organized; and understanding of the ethical and academic issues emanating from using and accessing online information.
Due to the ease of locating information on the Internet, some students cannot formulate a research question or come up with a research problem. They can barely organize information in a manner that shows clear evaluation, analysis and synthesis. They have failed to master the necessity of referring to different sources so that to authenticate the accuracy and reliability of information. Most of them are not concerned about the social situation and production of information and they consequently commit academic crimes like plagiarism or merely copy pasting and paraphrasing words without making any efforts to acknowledge the work. It is difficult for students to formulate research ideas or analyze the weaknesses and strengths of over-reliance on information technologies.
Searches of the Internet histories of students have shown that most students rely on the Internet for personal-related tasks as opposed to school related tasks. The current generation of students spends most time surfing, shopping, playing online games, or engaging with each other in newsgroups, chat rooms, social media, and bulletin boards. The situation has been worsened by ease of accessibility and availability of smart phones making it impossible for some students to concentrate on important things since they are always on their smartphones. Students have got accustomed to easy availability of information and they do not make any efforts to conduct a detailed research on the topic in question since they are contented with the information found on the Internet. Teenagers in school are struggling with reading novels and classics which they find monotonous and complex. They see no point in wasting time reading the books while simple book reviews and book analyses can be easily found on the Internet. Compelling students to read tomes discourages them from reading in the long run.
The Internet has also contributed to rise of slang and abbreviations in day to day communication. The Internet is therefore not only changing the way modern students read and research, it is also influencing the way they write. Social networking has normalized the use of abbreviations and slang to the extent that most students have forgotten basic grammar rules. Literary English is barely used in student communication and most of them have lost the ability to realize what is proper in formal and informal situations. Slang and abbreviations use has become common in essays and resumes. They do not comprehend that teachers, who are members of older generations, do not always understand the meaning of those abbreviations. Teachers do their best so that to decipher and eliminate the slang and abbreviations. The Internet has become more appealing for those students who do not like reading, as it allows them to skim on the surface of the information rather than engage in a deep research.
The ease of accessibility of information on the Internet has resulted in students developing shorter attention and concentration spans. Therefore, this leads to lack of comprehension during the class hours. Instead of reading through long publications, students would rather skim through information and click on a new link to find something much more interesting. The shorter concentration span means that students are less likely to read any information they come across while on the Internet as they are in a constant search for exciting things to do aside from reading. The Internet does not disappoint them since it offers numerous unlimited eye catching options. They sacrifice time that should be spent on academics while engaging in activities that are unnecessary or useless.
Development of shorter attention span has made reading books undesirable. Students are not willing to spend time reading and processing while they know they can quickly access similar information on the Internet by clicking on a link. Students want to spend the least time possible on studies. The idea of surfing the Internet motivates students while the idea of reading books discourages students from learning. They have been used to a digital world where things are done easily and quickly. Reading books seems monotonous and boring and most of them give up on deducing information on their own within the first few pages.
However, the Internet has also numerous benefits on literacy improvement. Technology has made people to be more knowledgeable on a vast array of issues. Spending time on the Internet helps students to improve social understanding which can boost academic performance. Students are able to fulfill psychological and social needs by interacting with groups of people with whom they share particular characteristics. Students with the ability to locate, identify, and retrieve crucial informant on the Internet have a higher chance of attaining academic success. Such students have high scores in both literacy and publishing and are likely to be inspired to do more by the vast information found on the Internet. Educators must realize that the Internet has become a central component of the learning life of students and in as much as they would prefer students to use books, only a marginal number of students may be willing to use them. The only way out is to capitalize on improving the efficiency and efficacy of the Internet as a learning and research tool by teaching students the necessary skills to authenticate and analyze the information they come across on the Internet. They should be taught how to evaluate, dissect, and investigate online information so that to improve their learning experience.
Melissa Thomas is a young author enthusiast who works at bestwritingservice. She likes experimenting with the style of presentation.

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