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  • Level: GCSE
  • Subject: ICT
  • Word count: 3322

Report on the impact of information technology on social structures.

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REPORT ON THE IMPACT OF INFORMATION TECHNOLOGY ON SOCIAL STRUCTURES ABSTRACT This report describes the development of the Internet and its technology, and its implications for our social structures, with a particular focus on family life and education. Use of the Internet in the home environment has given rise to concerns regarding social isolation of families, exposure to inappropriate material and invasion of privacy through undisclosed use of personal data. In contrast, the Internet has been recognized for fostering new dynamics within the family structure by introducing a more even distribution of authority within the family and increased whole family learning. The report highlights that the introduction of the Internet, as a teaching implement, will change the classroom environment, as well as the teacher-pupil relationship. However, the presence of the Internet in schools is still being researched and evaluated. INTRODUCTION The Internet and its technology such as email and the WWW, are fast entering the mainstream of society. Key to understanding the impact of the Internet on social structures is the rapidity with which the technology is both diffusing and simultaneously, changing. The Internet has moved very recently from being confined to the workplaces of professionals to take its place beside the television as a family resource in the homes of the majority of schoolchildren. The rapidity of these changes is accompanied by uncertainty regarding the implications of the Internet on social structures. Parents, teachers and policy makers alike, whilst recognizing the liberating and empowering possibilities of the Internet, are also deeply concerned about how this new resource should be managed and controlled. This report seeks to discuss the impact of the Internet on the social structures of family life and education. Issues concerning the growing use of the Internet and its technology in the home and school environments are critically examined. DEVELOPMENT OF THE INTERNET The history of the Internet dates back as far as 1969, when ARPANET, the network set up by the US Defence Department, became the foundation of a ...read more.


Bennahum (1996) cited in Loader (1997:5) indicate 'that whilst some uses of the Internet, such as encrypted person-to-person email, invited relay chat or video conferencing and password protected file transfer protocol or WWW sites may be relatively private, others, such as email-based distribution lists, Usenet groups and WWW pages, are more public in orientation'. For example, a web-based forum based on helping a family with their plumbing problems may have been set up by a business as an indirect way of gaining addresses and information for the purpose of selling plumbing products to families. Most people are aware of the Internet's benefits, but not everyone is aware of how the Internet can threaten personal privacy. Tracking on the Internet can provide information on websites visited, item purchases, communications and duration of Internet usage. A cookie is a piece of text that a Web server can store on a family's hard disk allowing a Web site to store information on a family's machine and later retrieve it. This practice started receiving tremendous media attention back in February 2000 because of Internet privacy concerns, and the debate still rages. The information stored in a family's cookie file is only anonymous until family members supply personally identifiable information to a particular site and often sites share information. Mainly, businesses use this information to create profiles about potential customers in order to develop better products to meet the needs of families, to enter new markets and compete with other companies. However, this practice tends to lead to the average Internet-using family receiving unwanted email, banner ads and post which relates to the areas in which they have been researching on the Internet. SOCIAL DEVELOPMENT OF FAMILIES Children are using the Internet for activities, which are usually associated with our understanding of what constitutes a traditional childhood including playing, learning, communicating and forming relationships. As Tapscott (1998:6) indicates 'children can become enthralled with new worlds and tools, at the expense of other healthy or important activities, such as socializing. ...read more.


This has been recognized by the Government and subsequently, use of the Internet, both as a source of information and a way to communicate with others, has been built into the National Curriculum guidelines; * At age 7-11 pupils are expected to be able to use email, and talk about how they would find information on the Internet. * By 11-14, pupils should be able to share/exchange information using email/web-publishing and know how to evaluate a website. * At 14-16, pupils are to be taught the more complex skills of how to reflect critically on the impact of e-commerce and to use their initiative to exploit the potential of new sites on the Internet. (Source: DfEE, 1998) The incorporation of the Internet and its technology into the classroom is not a new idea. Teachers supported early technologies such as blackboards and desks because they made it easier for teachers to manage the classroom and convey information. In the early days of school Internet use, classroom computers were used as a reward when pupils finished their class work. But, as educational programs were developed, many schools built Internet resources into the Curriculum. . THE COST OF INTERNET USE IN SCHOOLS Belem et al (2000) argue that 'one outcome [of introducing the Internet in schools] is the cost of implementing the Internet as a learning tool and who will fund it'. In the age of Government cut backs, the possibility of introducing the Internet in every school seems unrealistic due to the high costs. It means that somehow funding must be available and this may mean that other areas in desperate need of Government funding may be affected. For example, priority funding may be taken from disadvantaged areas of society such as families on a low-income or people who are homeless to ensure that children have access to a computer in their classroom. Similarly, schools may need to plough more of their own funding into incorporating use of the Internet, which in turn would limit spending on other important areas of the curriculum. ...read more.

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