February 23, 2010

Impact of the Internet on Critical Reading and Writing Skills

If you are reading this article—you, like many others, probably spend a lot of time on the internet. But what is this habit doing to you and your literacy skills? Recent research now lets us know.

What the Research Says

Researchers have conducted studies which they believe prove the internet has ‘rewired’ the way our brains absorb information.

When you are searching the internet how long do you think you spend on a single page? (Hopefully you’re still on this page at this point!) Probably not very long. The internet offers so many gateways to other pages, that it has made it difficult for us to focus on one piece of information at a time.

In other words: the internet is making us all a little more A.D.D.

Associative Thinking

Experts describe this habit of darting from page to page as "associative" thinking. They have especially noticed this habit in younger children, whom are comparably less focused on studying, reading, and writing then the age group was when measured in the past. This is damaging to reading ability because it decreases our ability to comprehend what we read.

Here is a broadcast from NPR about the internet's impact on our brains:

Conflicting Opinions

Some psychologists disagree with these findings, and assert that there is no evidence of our brains being changed by the internet.

The contenders point out that young people have always had a hard time concentrating, thus the findings are not reliable. It is possible that the discrepancies in the findings between adults and children’s reading abilities is not a result of the internet, rather the difference is a result of the two groups being at different stages of brain development.

Another way researchers believe the internet has impacted our critical thinking abilities is that we now use less reliable sources to learn about new ideas. We often accept any article as fact. They found that students now do less research before answering a question. They also found that they trusted their friends for answers more than adults. They attributed this habit being a result of internet exposure, but it could simply be that children are more trusting and less skeptical.

There is another argument as to whether the internet as a main source of information, will make us more intelligent or if the quality of our intelligence and education will decline.  Although experts agree that the internet changes literacy- they do not agree with whether it is for the better or worse of society.

A recent survey by the Pew Research Institute reveals what people think about the internet’s impact on our intelligence. 76% of the respondents agreed that the internet makes us more intelligent by providing access to more information thus allowing us to make better decisions.  21% of the respondents thought the internet does not make us more intelligent and might even lower or IQ’s. 

Quotes About the Internet and Literacy

"I'm at the Digital Media and Learning conference this week, where no one would suggest the Internet and search engines are making kids less smart. It does create new issues of literacy, in the same way that the printing press created new capacities and standards of literacy.” -Alex Halavais, vice president of the Association of Internet Researchers

"What the Net does is shift the emphasis of our intelligence, away from what might be called a meditative or contemplative intelligence and more toward what might be called a utilitarian intelligence. The price of zipping among lots of bits of information is a loss of depth in our thinking.” -Nicolas Carr, Author of "The Big Switch: Rewiring the World, From Edison to Google"

"An adult's IQ can be influenced much either way by reading anything, and I would guess that smart people will use the Internet for smart things and stupid people will use it for stupid things in the same way that smart people read literature and stupid people read crap fiction.” -Sandra Kelly, 3M Corp.'s Market Research Manager

As you decide to rely more on the internet to build your intelligence and literacy skills be sure to choose sources that encourage you to use the internet for "smart things."

Learn how you can help students improve their literacy skills with a data-driven reading curriculum

Related Article

"30 Reasons Reading Should Take Priority Over Technology & Social Media"

Early Literacy Resources

Early Literacy

Lexile Levels

Early Reading Comprehension


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TV Repair said

Internet nowadays has influenced many people's lives. Whether be an adult, adolescent or minor, they included this as part of their daily lives. You can now check the internet anywhere and whenever, by using cellphones or laptops. For me, internet is very important especially if your job is depending on it. Thanks for sharing this article.

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avis proactol said

There are two points discussed here: One is the fact that internet made literacy and reading easier through online courses, and the next thing is that it is also a factor that plays a huge role when it comes to spelling and grammar. For kids, I think it is the parents' responsibilities to watch over their children and teach them the importance of internet, but never forget the importance of reading and writing the proper way.

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eventos en panamá said

I agree with the post above. For teachers, this can be a really huge factor - sometimes, it can be a bit frustrating whenever you are teaching the children or your students the proper way to spell words, and how to read them, yet, at the end of the class, these teachers do not know that the internet can greatly affect their spelling and the whole literacy of the children. I just hope that children and students alike will know the importance of literacy, and it is not "cute" if they spell things incorrectly on purpose.

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ebooks from Clickbank said

I know that the internet has serve as well, feeding us information that would surely help us with just a click away. But we should not forget the importance of reading books from our library becasue it is where we will really find first hand information.

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ZuluTrade forex blog said

Having the technology of the internet has rapidly affect in our lives..It's effect to the youth today has been so obvious that sometimes they can not do a research without surfing the net.I am thankful that we have this kind of technology but we should not forget that reading books is still important because this is where we can find more information than the internet.

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PR1 - 5 Links said

It is true that the internet has given us information with just one click away, but it is also true that it affects our reading and writing habits. We are now very dependable on the information that we are getting in the internet.

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Teknoloji haberleri said

The internet had played a very important role when it comes to studying - research and other information that is needed can be easily found. However, I must agree that because of the internet, writing, reading and even sentence construction on teenagers (or sometimes even adults) may have some problems.

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nails said

Yes I do believe that since the introduction of the internet in our society we have been so induced on using it. It is also true that the effect is seen world wide amongst our children and us as adults. But we must not forget that we must not depend on technology itself alone. We should not forget to read books because they too has some answers t o give us.

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I always use the net as a source to my projects and research because it lessen the effort of going to the library to borrow a book. But I do agree with the author that the internet has a great effect on our critical reading and how we write.

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Thomas said

I really agree on this. Internet had created a big impact on the literacy skills of people nowadays. Even the kids.... Thomas @ <a href="http://omahahvac.net/blog/maintenance-your-heat-pump-air-conditioner-or-furnace-it-nessisary">omaha heat pumps</a>

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HVAC Richmond said

Human beings are human beings. They say what they want, don't they? They used to say it across the fence while they were hanging wash. Now they just say it on the Internet.

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Jonathan Finch said

I have been dedicating a lot of time to the internet and getting literate with its ways. My time reading and studying books, great and small, has declined. If "old-fashioned" reading has its uses, it needs to be given time. I don't give it time. So...? I am following a different path and not the old one. As a life-long ex-reader I think I may be losing out.

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