Some of the negative effects of the Internet on students include increased distractions, limited attention spans and less thorough learning. Although the Internet offers substantial potential for student learning, educators are still determining the most effectively ways to utilize it.
One of the biggest drawbacks of the Internet is that it creates distractions for students. Internet access in the classroom offers students the opportunity to access a nearly limitless source of information, but it also offers equally limitless distractions. Internet access on smartphones and other devices also offers students greater potential to distract themselves from classwork. Outside of the classroom, online distractions can make it more difficult for students to complete homework. The constant stimulation of the Internet can also lead to reduced attention spans in students, making it even more difficult to complete schoolwork.
Students’ overreliance on Internet research may actually be causing them to retain less information. Studies conducted by Columbia professor Betsy Sparrow indicate a negative link between Internet use and cognition. Sparrow found that study participants were much less likely to remember information if they believed it would still be available in the future. Participants were also more likely to remember where it could be found, such as a website, rather than the information itself. Sparrow asserts that the Internet has created a greater reliance on transactive memory, in which information is stored in an external source rather than in the brain itself.