Stop surfing, make friends, Indian students told

“Stop surfing, make friends, Indian students told”

This is a fascinating article from a few days ago. Apparently administrators at several of the Indian Institute of Technology (IIT) campuses are becoming concerned with the toll that Internet addiction is taking on its students.

“The old hostel culture of camaraderie and socializing among students is gone. This is not healthy in our opinion,” said Prakash Gopalan, dean of student affairs at IIT-Mumbai.

They’ve consequently imposed policies aimed at redeeming the misguided souls.

Starting Monday, Internet access will be barred between 11 p.m. and 12.30 p.m. at IIT-Mumbai’s 13 hostels to encourage students to sleep early and to try and force them out of their “shells”, Gopalan said.

“There has been a decline in academic performance and also participation in sporting, cultural and social activities has gone down,” he said.

In case you aren’t familiar with the IIT system in India, these are top-notch academic institutions, where the very brightest students in India prepare for their careers. If this were America, think Stanford, Harvard, MIT, Berkeley (forgive me if I neglected your favorite top-ranked academic institution in this randomly ordered short list… okay, Carnegie Mellon).

I haven’t decided whether I agree with the new policy or not, but I absolutely agree that Internet addiction is increasingly taking a toll on the youth of the world, including bright engineering students who are otherwise committed to making something of their lives.

In our household we’ve gone through various iterations of Internet lockdown because of deliterious effects on the children as perceived by the parents. Obvious concerns include pornography in all its forms, Internet predators and the usual cast of foul characters. But even more innocent pastimes, like online gaming, can produce addictive behaviors.

Maybe what I’m about to say is hypocritical coming from a Computer Science professor, but I’d much rather my teenager were outside riding a motorcycle than inside surfing the net or playing World of Warquest (apologies to FoxTrot) or Run-escape (hyphen added by the author). I’ve watched individuals outside my own home throw away their lives, their education, their careers, their futures living 16 hours a day in a virtual world, while almost entirely ignoring the actual world around them.

Computers and technology play an important role in improving the quality of our lives. I enjoy the heck out of solving interesting problems in the software field and playing with the latest gadgets. But there’s a time and a place for appropriate use of technology, and it’s not all the time, and it’s not every place.

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