New Complaints About Kids Being Unsocial For Using The Internet

from the what-are-these-people-thinking? dept

I honestly had to check the date on this article to make sure it really was from today, and not five or more years ago. However, it seems that, at least once a year, some group makes big news by saying that kids need to stop spending so much time online because it somehow makes them less social. In this case, it uses the same incorrect logic: “Young people can become socially isolated if they’re sitting for hours and hours and don’t get to interact.” While he goes on to admit that people do interact online, he seems to indicate that quality of the interaction is not good when done online — though, of course, he gives no proof of this. While there’s no doubt that it’s a different way to interact, it’s hard to say that it’s any better or worse than other ways. It really depends on the type of interaction and the people involved. What’s amusing about all of this, as we mentioned one of the many times this issue has shown up in the past, is that the worried claims all are based on the concept of an internet that isn’t really there. It’s based on the view of the internet as a content medium, rather than a communications medium. This is still the way the entertainment industry views the internet, but it’s not the way people actually use it. Email, instant messaging, writing blogs, writing in forums, etc., are all means of communicating — and they get the most use online. Passive content consumption is a small part of what makes the internet what it is — so why do people keep making proposals based on the idea that this is all people do online?

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Comments on “New Complaints About Kids Being Unsocial For Using The Internet”

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dorpus says:

War on Averages

The “average joe”, as defined by people who don’t need the internet to socialize, are becoming an endangered species, so they are feeling threatened. I have a cult-like following on forums for people with unusual interests/needs. Truth is, every person in the world is unusual in at least one way.

Divergio says:

Re: No Subject Given

I’ve had many instances of valuable interaction with my friends in late night IM conversations.

We talk about things that we wouldn’t as easily talk about in person, like embarassing personal things. Other times we discuss technology that is easier to talk about with instant Google searches at hand.

I find the internet facilitates communication and socialization at times when communication would otherwise not be possible. In high school I can remember many times reading my AP US History homework with an IM window up in the background, carrying on an intermittent conversation.

Just because your only experience with online social interaction is “posting crap” or “cyberfucking” doesn’t mean that others can’t have meaningful experiences.

Phoenix says:

Re: No Subject Given

yeah? how about us that have no way of “real human interaction”.the only reason i em online for hours a day is because i cant see my friends and family.all of them,my best friends,my full family and my girlfriend are 2 Thousand kilometres away.does that make me insociable and not normal for a teenager like myself?

you,and these groups,need to leave the people that use the internet as a major form of commuication alone.

Anonymous Coward says:

Re: Re: No Subject Given

No, it doesn’t make you unsociable, unless you set your situation up for yourself just so you could avoid physical contact with those people. But even then, you could still be very sociable if you were out socializing with other people where you are. I was writing about kids at home, ones who have the physical opportunity to interact with their friends and family, but mostly don’t. Teenagers who date a person 2000 km away, not because of any change in circumstances, but because that’s what they’ve been doing since they were 15, and its what they prefer. You obviously wish you could see your girlfriend in person. What you’re doing is what e-mail is for – its better than nothing. Chat also works. A friend of mine, an older man, keeps up with his grandkids using e-mail and chat, and plays chess against one of his grandkids through yahoo or something. It’s second best to being with them, but he only gets to do that once a year. For him, like for you, using the internet is better than nothing.

OniZero says:

the reality of virtual reality

there is probubly truth in every word from both sides of the debate. The reality is that there are advantages and disavantages to all forms of social interaction. The activists seem to be trying to express that young people should be getting experience with real life interation as much, or more than its virtual counter parts. Possibly because, in the long run, most of society relies on physical comunication to decide the fate of physical issues. Our generation, and the generations to come will be needing skills in ALL forms of communication.

Pussy says:

Re: the reality of virtual reality

“Our generation, and the generations to come will be needing skills in ALL forms of communication.”

And yet ironically, Generation ?Y,? ?Millennials? or whatever lame ass name you want to give to them, possess the WORST set of communication skills of any now-living generation.

The grasp of grammar is – tenuous at best – sentence structure is infantile, and the vocabulary used by most folks in this generation is grossly limited. ?Where you at?? Is a perfect example.

But I doubt we can fault the internet.

I think the fault lies with English teachers who choose to teach multiculturalism rather than English. (And I think that multiculturalism is wonderful, but not the purview of English teachers) The fault lies with English teachers who no longer call themselves English teachers, but ?language arts? teachers, so that they can justify teaching more non-English, or even poor English. The fault lies with an education system that is more concerned with instilling ?positive self-esteem,? rather than providing an education (ironically something that would lead to positive self-esteem). No doubt the ?Gen Y? folks will disagree with this, and suggest that they have been well educated – but that is because they were cheated out of an education – and they just don?t know the difference.

Think I am kidding? Why do you think they have stopped using adverbs? Think I am joking? Try to find a high school kid, or even a college kid, who knows what an adverb is. It drives me crazy. ly people, add it to the end of words, (like different-ly, or slow-ly – it is how you do something) it is a small thing, but it will keep you from sounding like a hick. While I am at it, can we have simple things like subjects and verbs agree again, please? And for what I hope is the last time, you do not have two pairs of anything, you have two pair of them.

The thing is, that MY grasp of grammar is atrocious. That means that when others use grammar that is so awful that I notice, it is time for a change.

Anonymous Coward says:

No Subject Given

You ask for proof that online interaction is less valuable. But intuitively, don’t you think children who all their time online can’t develop in-person communication skills?
For example, how will children learn to respond to nonverbals? From their parents who walk past their kids PC and pat their kid on the shoulder?
How about adolescents? Do you think virtual Jenna is someone a 15 year-old should lose his virginity to? Should a highschool grad build a cyberhouse with his online love, as if that’s a substitute for marrying his real love and starting a real family?
What we do, read and write on forums, educate ourselves, and so on, is valuable, the same way reading and writing research articles is valuable. But I’m not planning on having virtual sex with anyone or meet some new friends. The idea that children can learn face-to-face communication skills through the internet medium is absurd. When you’re talking about the number of hours kids are spending online, you’re talking about hours in which they used to go play with their friends, or take their crush on a date. Instead, they’re learning how to write narratives and scripts, feeding each other lines they might have heard in the movies. For example, “Oh my darling, You’re the love of my life. “**** **, **** **, yes, yes, yes!” (Say, man, after writing that, I feel like we should get married! Or should we share another intimate moment first?)
“and then blah in 2nd period sent me this text message, and he doesn’t know how to write Kewl, so I blew him off. He wanted a cyberdate, but my thumbs were too tired already. You know blahblah in 1st period? We’re practically engaged! we texted the whole period – I think its true love. It was even better because we couldn’t see each other while we texted. Tonight I’m going home to have you-know-what with him online.”

You can’t replace the time you spend writing that drivel, with the equivalent in-person interaction. Not that that crap isn’t interspersed with the real thing, but just that a whole lot of learning is missing for those people when they’re grown up.

Anonymous Coward says:

New Complaints About Kids Being Unsocial For Using

Mike –
Your premise and argument are flawed. First you criticize the original statement that online interactions are “not so good,” for want of proof. Then, however, you assert that passive consumption is a “small part” of the internet – also without proof.
The internet is largely async post and read, or send and read, or publish and read. There is some synchronous communication on forums like IRC, IM, and chat rooms, but they aren’t used as much as the async stuff, and even there – you’re largely anonymous.
Antisocial behavior from anonymous, hit and run style communications? Well, if we met in person, I probably wouldn’t call you an idiot to your face out of a sense of social propriety and to avoid a confrontation. However, here on the internet, I feel free, no – compelled to do so.
You idiot.

Mike (profile) says:

Re: New Complaints About Kids Being Unsocial For U

Not quite sure how showing your own lack of tact online proves anything, to be honest — other than what sort of person you are.

However, I’m confused as to why you think that asynchronous communication is somehow worse than synchronous? I’m sure old fashioned letter writers would disagree with you, as many of them seem to think that letter writing is the highest form of communication.

The point is pretty straight forward. The main reasons that people use the internet (email, IM, etc) are for communications, not passive content consumption. That’s been shown in any study of internet usage. They are about interactions with others. As I said, those interactions may be quite different than in-person interactions, and there are plenty of examples of situations where one or the other may be better. But to assume, completely, that internet based communication isn’t a “good” form of interaction is just silly and shortsighted. It would be easy to trot out plenty of cases where people were able to better communicate, or find like minds, or communicate with those they could never have communicated with before thanks to the internet.

Are there silly and stupid communications online? Sure. You proved that. But that doesn’t mean there aren’t silly and stupid communications in person as well.

The point is that they’re different. Sometimes one is better. Sometimes another is better. But, telling people to stop doing one on the assumption that it’s always worse is silly and wrong.

Anonymous Coward says:

Re: Re: New Complaints About Kids Being Unsocial For U

I am not that AC who insulted you, but I I agree with their point about asynchronous communication, and their pointed demonstration of online “tact”.
You can distinguish in-person synchronous communication from anonymous (or at least too far away to effect) asynchronous communication pretty easily, if you consider how likely people are to call you an idiot to your face (or anyone else’s, including mine).
But even if nonanonymous asynchronous communication was what kids now do, and even if most of it is highbrow, in good taste, and demonstrates a commitment to extending the aesthetic of the written word, there’d still be a major problem.
Synchronous communication involves responding to your communication partner’s nonverbals and changing your own. For example, when you tell a joke, how you tell it is as important as the joke itself. But not online, where only the joke itself can be judged.
Online communication is asynchronous. You write a communication, wait for the reply, receive the reply, and judge your impact on your communication partner from the reply. Then you wash, rinse, and repeat.
Remember, you’re writing about kids who need to develop skills to enhance the quality of how they spend their time later on, not adults with a bunch of social experience under their belts. I think adults underestimate the importance of what kids are not doing when they’re spending time online. Kids require concentrated practice and exposure to the social skills they need to acquire. That’s in-person, face-to-face social skills. They also need the reality check that face-to-face interaction requires. Online interaction is like a wearing a mask on an artificial body, a body whose pleasures and pains have (relatively) no consequence for the person using it, and even when they do, whose mask hides those pleasures and pains from the person causing them. Physical experience of real communication curbs your exercise of communication extremes real quick. Communication has consequences in real life that kids need to learn about and grow confident in handling. The alternative is not that they’ll never communicate face-to-face, but that such communications will take place from a place of ignorance and disadvantage.

Van says:

What about this?

I think also that people confused kids that have a natural inability to connect with peers and use the internet because you are less likely to be judged by looks but instead by what you have to say and contribure. They look at those kids and say that the computer and in this case the interenet is the problem. There are alot of people who just have social anxiety due to their peers reaction to them or because of family envieronment ( or many other factors ). I think that alot of these claims arent looking to the real psychological problem. Not that in most cases it is. Even then alot of times its just an overactive concern for their childeren. (I am rambling half asleep here so I hope I make sense)

Ben says:

Different forms of social interaction

The reality is, online interaction and traditional physical betatron are VERY DIFFERENT.

Text-biased communication is bare language: symbols forming words to represent ideas.

In-person communication involve two entire other dimensions of language: spoken language, and facial/body language.

The latter is multi-dimensional and therefore more fluid, but the former is not at all insufficient even for complex social interaction and communication of complex ideas.

John Bennett (user link) says:

I iffin' agree

I don’t have many friends in reality, mainly because I like things other perople at my ‘christian school’ think are stupid.
(IE: Anime, manga, ect.) –I’d rather talk about that then what the mass majority like talking about.
(IE: Drugs, alchahol, ect.) –apperently at my school thats the cool thing to do.
Anyway, I spend most of my time talking to my friends over iChat, and going to online fourms I find interesting where I can meet people that have my same interests, like for instance.

My parents and other family members say that I’m addicted to the interenet and computers, thats not true. The only reason why I almost NEED the internet and a good computer is because that is the ONLY place anywhere where I can talk to any friends I might have and also take part in general discussion about familiar interests.

(I mean at school I preety much get the living shit beat out of me.)
[On a daily basis.]
So to me, the internet is not an addiction, it is not something evil at all. For me the internet is like a heaven.
I can’t get picked on there, I can’t get hit, and I can actually have and make friends there, with people who understand and like the same things as me.

And well…I guess thats all I have to say about the internet, my little area…thing.
[The world is wrong.]
[Go internet.]

John Bennett
Age: 14
Charlotte, NC

John Bennett (user link) says:

One other thing.

I think I read somewhere about people complaining about the lack of grammar and such across the internet.

Yes we come across, or at least I come across it, on a daily basis.
[They go no-where on the net.]

I myself enjoy and praise literacy. it is something the world needs.
Most of the time you’ll start seeing on large fourms and other places that the less literate people, those who can’t even type correctly or talk in teh commonly known ‘l33t’ pathetic language is seperated and many tims attacked and put-down by the literates.

It’s split into two groups mainly, and you decide who your going to be. TRUST ME, people who are not literate or have lack of language are being taught that grammar and literacy is the ONLY way to long-term survive on the internet.
Either that or they will never gain respect, ever.

I am not a blabbering idiot because of the internet, if anything I have learned from it. Stop complaining and face the facts.
If you want your kids to not talk like an idiot GIVE THEM A BOOK! –Don’t blame it on the internet.

After all, if your so worried about it and this so called ‘cybering’ then just shut the damn thing down. Take action and stop complaining about it to yourself.

As a great man said once before:
“We must be the change we wish to see in the world.”
-Mahatma Gandhi

[yeah I watch History Channel too….]

John Bennett
Age 14
Charlotte, NC

Joe (profile) says:

online interaction

I think interacting online is entirely different then doing so in the real world. Online interaction is great if you know the person on the other end but it does little to forward ones social skills.

Part of the problem is the anonymity of an online avatar. They never see you, you can’t see their reactions, i think this will be remedied once video conferencing goes mainstream.

Until that is advanced enough that people can communicate with more than the written word it isn’t anymore advanced then writing letters. I do interact online a lot, I write, I chat, I play online games and although there are quality people online I find that there are a lot of 11-15 year olds using their anonymity and abusing it.

Swervin says:


This is like going back 20+ years and writing about the horrible scourge of pen pals. Kids shouldn’t be sitting at a desk all day writing and licking envelopes, it’s just not natural. One of the best things I can see about online interaction is that you get to communicate with *different* people. If you just walk around town talking with people you get a lot of the same opinions and concerns. I think being exposed to different cultures and ideas will do a lot more good in the long run than perfect grammer and knowing the rules of non-verbal communication.

Anonymous Coward says:

What BS

The article presumes that because kids are put in more “social” situations, that they will somehow automatically (woohoo!) learn how to talk and relate to other human beings. Which sometimes happens. But most often then not, it doesn’t. School doesn’t teach kids critical real-world skills like negotiation, developing report, attracting the opposite sex, making money, etc. All of which are essential for dealing with the real world. They would rather you learn what the capital of romania is, then how to understand and connect with the people in their own backyard.

No, let’s just get kids “out more” and they will somehow “become social”. What a crock. Becoming social is a skill, and if kids aren’t specifically taught how to do it, then how can they expect them to suddenly be any good at it?

roper kerby (user link) says:


im doing this for shool, resech but hey im both ways but woudent we be beter without it we where PUT on this earth to live life to the fullist and dont you think you woughd get more out of life by actilly metting people I think were beter without it.its ok to use the computer, just not 24 7 trust me you will get more out of life if you dont!

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