Internet usage, and (d) to suggest various ways to decrease children's exposure tonegative Internet content.Literature ReviewIn fall 2002, 99% of public schools in the United States had access to the Internetand 64% of children ages 5 to 17 had Internet access at home (National Center forEducation Statistics, 2002). Children ages 13 to 17 spent more time online thanwatching television--3.5 hours versus 3.1 hours per day, and used the Internetmostly for exploration (surfing and searching), followed by education (learning andhomework), multimedia (music, video, etc.), communications (e-mail, chat, andinstant messages), games, and e-commerce (Corporation for Public Broadcasting,2002). The place children were most likely to use the Internet was in the home,rather than at a library or school: 20% of children ages 8 to 16 had a computer intheir bedroom, of which 54% had Internet access (Wartella et al., 2002).
Negative Effects of Using the Internet
There is an increasing concern from educators, psychologists, and parents about thenegative effects of using the Internet on the physical (e.g., information fatiguesyndrome), cognitive (e.g., inability to discriminate between the real and cyberworld), and social development (e.g., identity confusion) of children (Cordes & Miller,2000), among which, detriment to social development (hurting children's skills andpatience to conduct necessary social relations in the real world) is a paramountproblem (Affonso, 1999). One of the most serious concerns regarding children'ssocial development involves the proliferation and easy accessibility of negativecontent on the Internet, such as pornography, violence, hate speech, gambling,sexual solicitation, and so forth (Internet Advisory Board, 2001; ParentLink, 2004). Itis easy to see how these types of negative content harm children and destroy theirdevelopment. Extant literature shows that children's exposure to inappropriate mediacontent yields many negative outcomes such as increased aggression, fear,desensitization, poor school performance, prevalence of symptoms of psychologicaltrauma, antisocial behavior, negative self-perception, low self-esteem, lack of reality,identity confusion, and more (e.g., Donnerstein, Slaby, & Eron, 1994; Fleming & Rickwood, 2001; Funk & Buchman, 1996; Strasburger & Donnerstein, 1999;Wartella, O'Keefe, & Scantlin, 2000).In particular, sexually explicit materials on the Internet can desensitize children todeviant sexual stimuli and encourage them to enact antisocial aggressive sexualbehaviors (W. Fisher & Barak, 2001). Furthermore, the anonymity of the Internetmakes it easier for pedophiles to approach children through online chatting. Childrenwho spend hours in chat rooms looking for friends or just passing time can be easilytargeted and abused by unknown adult sexual offenders (KidsHealth, 2004). Violentonline games are another serious concern. It is known that violent computer gamesincrease children's physical, verbal, relational, and antisocial aggressions(Donnerstein et al., 1994). These negative effects of violent games on children areeven more serious regarding the Internet because access to such violent games hasbecome easier for unsupervised children due to free or fee-based online games(Collwell & Payne, 2000). Online gambling has also been cited as a serious Internetproblem affecting children. It can seriously disrupt children's social and psychologicaldevelopment, for example, addiction, being unable to repay debts, missing school,and so forth (Ho, 2002; Mikta, 2001