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The importance of the Internet for teens
This month we have a special guest columnist: David Thelen from Michigan! Learn about the importance of the Net for teens from someone who knows! David is a high school sophomore from Michigan who has recently begun publishing his work in Internet E-Zines.
By David Thelen


The Internet plays a big role in the lives of adults and teenagers alike. The importance of the Internet in a teenager's life increases with every day that goes by. Teenagers are starting to use the Internet in a myriad of ways, which range from doing schoolwork to transporting themselves halfway around the world. As long as the need for getting quick, in-depth information is still there, the need for the Internet will also be strong.
     The big debate recently has been over the use of the Internet in schools today. Coming from a school that does not have Internet access, I feel that not only is it a novelty, but it is also starting to become a necessity. Students that have the privilege to get on the Internet have a distinct advantage over the students who are less fortunate. Internet-able students have the possibility to access information at an unbelievable pace, and creating their reports becomes less tedious, and may even get kids interested in school. The advantages only begin with school work; the workforce is also centered around the computer, and knowing how to use the Internet gives kids a big advantage when they do enter the workforce and even college! Now those are the pluses, and of course where there is a plus there is always a minus. There is always going to be a fear of kids using the Internet in an insidious manner. I believe that you can eliminate that fear with a few weeks of Internet basics and Internet safety education.
So let's say that your school does have access to the Internet; the next big hurdle is to get teachers to use it to their advantage. If I had a teacher that incorporated the Internet with their lessons, I would definitely be more interested in school. Some examples of this would be having an economics teacher get on the Internet and give the kids a shopping list; and their job was to find the best deal. Or you could have an English teacher have kids get on the Internet and read movie reviews, then have the kids rent the movie and see if they agree with the experts. Maybe they could write their own review and send it to Siskel and Ebert!
     Now the situation becomes that not only does the school have access to the Internet, but teachers are also using it effectively in their lessons. The $64,000 question is: will it help kids get better grades? Well here is my strong opinion on that subject. You can split most students in to three categories: The Elite, The Norm, and The Underachievers. Now, no matter what learning circumstance they are in, the will to excel is what puts them in a category. The Underachievers (I hate to call them that but I really don't have a better term.) are usually (I hate to generalize but this is the only way to get my point across) going to sit back and not care what is going on they will always settle for the "C's" and "D's". The group that you can make change the most is The Norm. I am a firm believer that if you charge things up a little and not do the same old reading and writing assignments, kids will put forth more of an effort and challenge themselves a little more. Most of the time you don't need a teacher breathing down your back telling you to be more creative, usually it is right there: you just have to unlock the creative juice.
I f I had to build the perfect Internet school, I would start by letting kids have a lot of hands-on activity. Instead of having the teacher doing stuff on the computer, have the student maybe even run a lesson off the Internet. I believe that would get kids interested in school. Ideally, each student would have to sit at a computer in a 3:1 ratio. By this I mean that for each 3 minutes of school time, each student would have 1 minute of Internet time. This would allow time for the questions to be answered, and it would also force them to get to work, because you couldn't really give them homework on the Internet.
     One final thought about the Internet in schools and the Internet in the lives of teenagers in general is this: as long as the correct intention is there, the Internet can become a useful tool. It is useful in that not only can teenagers do interesting schoolwork, but they can also hear what kids have to say half-way around the world about an issue that affects all of them. The Internet is increasingly becoming the tool that will lead kids into their dream jobs: giving them a head-start in school is priceless.

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