Making the Most of Your Time Online

The internet is a mind boggling tool. In spite of the wealth of useful resources and sources of creativity, most people feel like they waste hours upon hours online. With sites like Youtube, Facebook, and Netflix entertaining millions of users everyday, these online distractions should come as no surprise. The big question then is how do you get more out of your time online?

The Internet as a Resource

For scholars, teachers, professionals and students alike, the Internet has revolutionized research. Web archives like JSTOR allow academics in the social sciences and humanities to access online articles from the world’s best academic journals. Sites like Wikipedia can be helpful sources of information if you want to find broad overviews on almost any given topic.

Almost all colleges now use the online educational platform Blackboard, which allows students to access important information for their courses, such as reading assignments, classroom message boards and syllabi. Another great teaching tool is Collaborize Classroom, in which parents develop custom learning tools for their kids. Collaborize allows them to create a variety of lessons and assignments based on what their kids are taught in school.

In addition to education, the Internet has changed the face of news forever. Whereas 30 years ago, the most common mediums people used to retrieve important national and global news were the paper or the television, today both have been largely replaced by web offerings. Major newspapers such as the New York Times and The Guardian are all placing greater emphasis on their online newspaper platforms, as many argue that the future of former “print” sources is not paper but the Internet.

Negative Uses

Despite all the beneficial qualities of the Internet, its vast resources can also become serious distractions. Many poeple  spend the bulk of their time online aimlessly browsing social media sites like Facebook and Twitter. At work, employees frequently waste hours online, easily making it the most common way for employees to distract themselves at work. In fact, an astonishing 45% of Americans have ranked the Internet as the most substantial time waster during work hours. But there are ways for people to become more disciplined and conscientious about their Internet usage. For a nominal monthly fee, programs like Freedom limit the number of hours users can go online. Users can also check their emails less frequently by setting up a time to check it once or twice a day. Students who tend to procrastinate online can study and work in quiet spaces that do not have Wi-Fi connections. Users can also build healthier lifestyles by balancing the time spent online with other activities, such as exercise, spending time with family and friends and pursuing outdoor sports. Concerned parents can limit the amount of time their children spend online by using parameter controls such as those available via Windows 7. Establishing healthy habits early on with your own Internet use can help users lead more balanced and engaged lives.

If you want to build healthier Internet usage habits, there are several resources you can use. Here is a short list of authoritative sites that you may find helpful:

  • Family Safety Learning Center—Safe Internet Browsing: Dell Computers has a helpful online safety guide that suggests ways for families to build healthy Internet habits together. This includes suggestions on setting initial rules for Internet use and how to balance online and “off-line” time.
  • My Healthy Internet: This is a website dedicated to promoting healthy “digital” lifestyles and is maintained by a group of professional educators who support the healthy use and integration of the Internet in people’s day-to-day lives.