Interview: How does the internet effect people

by drlazarus on February 3, 2015

This is an interview between Dr. Steven Lazarus, Psychologist and a high school student named Abigail. She gave permission to post the interview.

Dear Dr. Steven Lazarus,

Thank you for taking your time to answer the following questions. I am honored that you want to post this to your blog, feel free to use it anywhere you would like. Here are my questions, answer the best you can. Thank you!
1) Are there any percentages on brain damage from using the internet too much?
I have not researched this area and cannot provide you with an answer.

2) What does the internet do to our brains specifically, if anything?

The Internet provides a way for us to get media to information on almost any topic. I’m wondering if you’re asking if using computers, smart phones, and other devices has an impact on her brain. The answer to that question is that there is a lot of research that screens activate our frontal lobe of our brain. This is the part of her brain that is in charge of planning and organizing. Sleep studies have shown that when people use screens prior to going to bed, but effects are sleep. It takes longer to go to sleep and longer to get into deep sleep. The current recommendation is that all screens are turned off one hour prior to bedtime.

In addition, many people multitask when using electronic devices or computers. By multitasking, I mean that a student might be working on math homework, checking Facebook, texting friends, posting a photo on pintrist, driving, and surfing the web. This would make it much more difficult to complete homework effectively and as you know, has resulted in distracted driving.

3) Does it effect or mess with our emotions and actions?
Getting instant information from the Internet can have a tremendous effect on our emotions and perhaps our actions. People post tweets when they are angry or in the heat of the moment and say things they would never say if they were calm. Gossip and inappropriate photos are posted on the web without thinking about the damage they can cause. A high school student can start a rumor via texting or Facebook and before the end of the day, almost everyone knows about. This instant source of posting our thoughts and feelings can cause a lot of damage.

On the other hand, having instance access to the Internet has allowed me to find a restaurant quickly, not get lost, find out how to help a person in an emergency, look up a YouTube video for how to fix something, and find out that there is an emergency.

As I discussed in question two, multitasking can have a large effect on our actions and ability to get things done.

4) What are the advantages and disadvantages of the internet?
Some of the advantages are instant information at our fingertips on almost any topic of interest. The ability to spread news quickly to a large group of people is another advantage. From an environmental perspective, a lot less paper is being used for example for e-mail. For people with disabilities, the ability to work from home or take a remote learning education is a wonderful advantage.

Some of the disadvantages are similar to the advantages. For example, having the ability to get instant information instead of taking the time to do research could be a disadvantage. Sometimes, information on the Internet is not accurate and I would call it miss information. For example when a person is sick, when you look up symptoms of that illness you often find worst-case scenarios including cancer. Then it turns out the person just had a cold. Of course, another disadvantage has to do with exposure to dangerous material and people, for example child predators and pornography.

5) On a yearly basis, how many hours do we spend on the internet?
I have not studied this topic but I’m sure you can find this via a Google web search.

6) How much of your daily life at home and work is spent on the internet?
This is another topic that I have not researched. However, of course to some extent this would be dependent on what the person does for work or school. It would be important to count all hours on the Internet including computer, smart phones, ipad, streaming videos, etc.

7) While the internet gets better are we going to get less active and less social? Will we lose our ability to interact in person?
People who use the Internet, social networking, text messaging are often very social. But we may have to change our definition of what social interaction is. Many people have lengthy conversations via text message. Some people even communicate with each other via electronic device even when they’re sitting at the same table. At a minimum, is changing how we interact in person. Good with your family, and notice how many people have their phones out. How many kids are playing a video game at dinner. How many people are gathered around a device looking at pictures.

8) What are some ideas that you have on what people would do, if they couldn’t use the internet?
If people couldn’t use the Internet, I suspect that things would go back to how it was 20 to 30 years ago. We would again send letters through the United States Post Office. We would go to the library to do research. We would use phones to call each other.

9) Will the younger generations lose their ability to write and read cursive?
Curse this is no longer being required in Colorado schools is a part or curriculum. Other than learning how to sign your name in cursive there is very little focus in elementary schools are learning cursive. Keyboarding is being taught from an early age now and is certainly a primary way that people are writing these days.

10) What are your thoughts on cyberbullying? What can we do to help stop it?
Cyber bullying is a major topic of concern. We hear about it every week in our news. People threatened other people, make fun of them, really chill them on social networking platforms etc. a furtive kids committing suicide because of cyber bullying so that is a very concerning area. Interestingly, from a legal perspective people who cyber bully leave a path of breadcrumbs of all of the terrible things that they have said or done toward the other person which can result in criminal charges.

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