Digitally Active: Kids on the Internet


Shreyashi DasGupta explores virtual spaces to find children of the globe living in a seamless world.

A recent study has revealed that internet access is beneficial for children and most RobinAge readers seem to agree. "I spend most of my time online chatting or playing games," says 10-year-old Jayesh Sharma. 
14-year-old Shreyasi has friends across the globe. Her closest friend is Patricia who lives in Cleveland, U.S.A. They met through a school project two years ago and since then they have been in touch with each other over e-mail and Skype. They even plan their holidays together.
12-year-old Hasan Afzal Patel prefers social networking sites. He says, "I log on to Orkut and Facebook frequently. I prefer it to all other outdoor activities."
Still others like Simran Arora of St. Gregorios School in Chembur are part of a networking programme that has been initiated through their school. Called Global Partners Junior, the programme allows Indian kids to interact with students around the globe. This creates online friends and allows kids to gain information about other parts of the world.
The internet can offer a vast plethora of information, and it's all available at the click of the mouse. 10-year-old Hebah Rathi from Bombay Scottish School, Powai says, "My favourite feature is the 'call option'. Skype is the only way to get in touch with friends and family. It even allows me to make international calls free of charge." She also loves surfing the net for information on her favourite topics, which includes a lot of research work for her school projects.
Informative games like those on the British tourism site help kids learn about various destinations through puzzles. The games are a blend of information and entertainment that provide education in an interactive way. The web is the only medium that can showcase this kind of learning without adult intervention.
Not everyone likes to be an internet bug though. "I go online only when I need information about my projects," says 13-year-old Eshita Nair from Ryan International School. This seems to be a good idea according to parent Dr. Bhati Mody. "I feel kids should learn about and from the internet, but the freedom to surf should be under parental control."
Excessive addiction to the net can, in fact, be harmful. As 14-year-old Manav Rajani from City International School says, "The internet can be very distracting and tempting at times." Parul Mehta, a young parent, does not restrict her child from going online, however she says, "I keep a tab on his online activities. I don't spy on him but make sure that he isn't getting access to unnecessary information."
Moderated use of the internet is thus a good idea. But what is the right age to start? Says psychotherapist Havovi Bhagwagar, "There is no ideal age to start on the net - even kids below six years use the net these days. Itís up to the parents to decide on the right age. Children can easily be lured by this virtual world and so they must be helped in their initial days of using the medium." Start exploring the world through the web, it's all at the click of a mouse.