First News
Volume:7, Number:42
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Influence of Internet

| Sharifunnaher |

Its growing penetration is creating addictions that threaten to unravel society through harmful effects on the mental and physical health of a growing number of users

The Internet is one of the best gifts of modern information technology. For the last two decades, this technology has revolutionized the way people communicate both professionally and personally. The positive impact of the Internet has turned the world into a global village. With devices like smartphones, tablets, laptops, etc., the Internet is now available to people of all age groups. It is opening up a new world of information in front of us. With proper utilization, the Internet can be the best study tool for anyone.

However, the negative and irresponsible usage of the Internet has created a number of serious personal and social problems worldwide. Social networking sites are becoming the breeding ground of cybercrime. For a country like Bangladesh where the Internet became accessible to the masses before they were properly aware or prepared for it, preventing the misuse of the Internet is becoming a great challenge.

Internet in Bangladesh

Starting in the early 1990s, Bangladesh had dial-up access to e-mail using the Bulletin Board Systems (BBSs) of a few local providers, but the number of users was not more than 500. Users were charged by the kilobyte and email was transferred from BBS service providers to the rest of the world by international dial-up using UUCP (UNIX-to-UNIX Copy Protocol).

In June 1996 the first VSAT based data circuit in the country was commissioned and the Bangladesh Telegraph and Telephone Board (BTTB) granted licenses to two Internet Service Providers (ISPs). In subsequent years, more liberal government policies led to a rapid expansion of the industry, resulting in over 150 registered ISP's by 2005. ISPs are currently regulated by the Bangladesh Telecommunication Regulatory Commission (BTRC) through the Bangladesh Telecommunications Act. Like many developed and developing countries, Internet use is increasing rapidly in Bangladesh. Ensuring people’s access to information technology is a priority for the current government, and a number of initiatives have been taken in recent years to facilitate it. As a result, despite having many infrastructural and technological shortcomings,the number of Internet users increased to 33 million by 2013. According to the Bangladesh Telecommunication Regulatory Commission (BTRC) website, the total number of Internet subscribers in Bangladesh reached nearly 67 million by the end of September 2016.

Internet accessibility

Despite the steady increase in the number of Internet users, Bangladesh is still considered to be quite behind when it comes to Internet access. According to a report by the International Telecommunication Union (UTA), Bangladesh has the lowest Internet penetration in South Asia, with just 14.40 percent of the population having connectivity to the Internet. The country stands 144th in ITU's ICT Development Index, up from its 148th spot in 2010. Even Myanmar, despite having introduced mobile phone services only a few years ago, came ahead of Bangladesh in the rankings, at 142. Its Internet penetration stands at 21.80 percent.

The ITU report also added that as of December 2015, Bangladesh has 3.867 million fixed broadband subscriptions, which is 2.41 percent of the total population. However, BTRC does not agree with this estimate. According to BTRC estimates, the country's Internet penetration is about 40 percent. BTRC chairman Shahjahan Mahmud said, “The ITU report does not reflect the true picture of our Internet access penetration.” Zunaid Ahmed Palak, state minister for ICT, has also disputed the estimate of the ITU report. He said the government will request the ITU to update the report with BTRC's figures. “Currently, 63.2 million Bangladeshis use the Internet,” he added.

Earlier, the World Bank in its 'World Development Report 2016: Digital Dividends' said that Bangladesh has the fifth largest offline population in the world, with about 148 million people still not connected to the Internet. According to the ITU report, the Maldives has the highest Internet penetration in South Asia, of 54.46 percent. Bhutan, another small country, is shortly behind with Internet penetration of 39.80 percent. Sri Lanka's Internet penetration stood at 29.99 percent, followed by India’s 26 percent.

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Tarana Halim State minister for Post and Communications

The government is trying its best to take Internet service to everyone’s doorstep. Banning the Internet to avoid its bad effects cannot be a solution, and it is not possible either. The government has taken strict measures to control the use of pornographic websites. Some sites have been blocked, and strict restrictions have been imposed on others so that underage children cannot access them easily. Rather than being too aggressive on children, we have to try to understand their psyche. We have to give them proper insight into the good and bad effects of the Internet. Family bonds must be strengthened to prevent social erosion. Students should use social networking sites, including Facebook, for acquiring knowledge. Teachers and guardians should be more careful so that students use the positive aspects of social networking sites and stay away from their negative sides. Everyone must work together to prevent misuse of the Internet.

Facebook is closing in on 2 billion users

Facebook gained its billionth user in October 2012 and has nearly 1.5 billion users who log in at least once a month. On August 28, 2015, over a billion people used Facebook on a single day. The milestone was reached when "1 in 7 people on Earth used Facebook to connect with their friends and family", company founder Mark Zuckerberg said in a post. As of the end of 2016, the social network had 1.86 billion monthly active users as of the end of 2016, up from 1.79 billion the previous quarter and 1.59 billion a year earlier.

Facebook currently has an average of 1.23 billion daily active users, 1.15 billion mobile daily active users, 1.86 billion monthly active users, and 1.74 billion mobile monthly active users as of December 31, 2016. Approximately 85.2 percent of the daily active users are outside the US and Canada, according to Facebook. China, the most populated country in the world, is out of this estimate, as it has its own social networking sites. Even in India, a country of 1.25 billion people, the number of Facebook users is comparatively low: around 125 million. Dhaka is the second most active city in the world for having the most active Facebook users, and 22 million people actively use Facebook here, according to social media research organization We Are Social and Hootsuite. Bangladesh Telecommunication Regulatory Commission estimates say that over 25 million people in our country use Facebook. As of February 2017, Bangladesh had 67.245 million Internet users, of whom 63.120 million are accessing the web on their mobile phones. The ICT department sources said that currently, over 23.3 million people in Bangladesh are using Facebook. Of the total users, 17 million are men and 6.30 million are women. 93 percent of Facebook users are between the ages of 18 and 34.

The We Are Social report said the Internet has reached almost half of the world’s population. Of the 7.50 billion people in the world, 2.78 billion are active on one or another social networking site. Along with daily communication, Facebook has become a means of e-commerce, online business, and many official activities. Many semi-educated people are using this site with ease. In Bangladesh, 17 percent of Facebook users are between the ages of 13 and 17, while 42 percent are 18 to 22 years old.

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Zunaid Ahmed Palak State minister for Information and Communication Technology

In Bangladesh, a new Facebook account is being opened every 12 seconds. Bangladesh is the second fastest growing Facebook-using country, and Dhaka is the second most active city in the world of Facebook users. Although the harmful effects of social networking sites is a fairly new phenomenon in our country, the western world has been dealing with these problems for years. The government is thinking about making the national ID mandatory for opening Facebook accounts. By doing so, fake users can be identified, and the tendency of opening new fake accounts can be prevented as well. Once the smart national ID card project is properly initiated, we will write to the Facebook authorities to provide a new option for national identity card verification along with the usual email ID. If fake accounts can be eradicated, overall security will be boosted.

Life after internet

Although the negative effects of the Internet often become the focus of many conversations, who would want to go back to the days before the Internet? Gone are the days when people had to wait for months for a letter to arrive. Sometimes important mail used to get lost on the way. With email and numerous messenger services, communication is now only a fingertip away. People can see and talk to their expat relatives/family members on acan order any product from the comfort of our home, and get it delivered within a short period of time. regular basis. By using the Internet, we

The Internet has completely revolutionized the information and news sector. We get to know about events that often slip past newspapers. Social networking sites have been helpful in getting in touch with blood donors, collecting funds for seriously ill patients, gathering winter wear for the poor, etc. The Internet is an unlimited source of study materials for almost any subject. Students do not have to buy expensive books as there are plenty of free eBooks, online articles, and tutorials available online completely free of charge. A life without Internet is almost unthinkable for many people.

A whole new world

The Internet has introduced a whole new world to us which is quite beyond the realm of reality. In that virtual world, interactions and relationships flow at a different pace. Many of the virtual friendships remain strictly confined to the screens of the devices used. Due to geographical distance or personal issues, many virtual friends never get to meet each other personally. This kind of friendship is strictly based on the information provided by the persons involved. A person can present a completely different persona online, which might not bear any resemblance to his or her real life personality. In many cases, these friendships never become deep, as people consider them only a medium of passing idle time. However, some virtual friendships turn into solid real life friendships as well. Sometimes the virtual relationships end up being more effective for a person’s mental health than their surrounding real relationships.

Impact on youngsters

Children and teenagers are the most vulnerable age group to be negatively affected by the Internet. In most cases, they have access to the Internet even before gaining proper knowledge about how to use it safely. The availability of electronic devices with Internet service is further compounding the situation. Except for a few schools and colleges in big cities, most other educational institutions do not provide any guidelines to students about safe Internet surfing.

Most parents do not have enough technological knowledge to monitor their children's online activities. The lack of surveillance is one of the main reasons why youngsters are ending up on the dark side of the Internet. Many of them are unwittingly compromising their safety, and falling prey to online predators. This problem is a worldwide phenomenon. Developed countries are also suffering from it.

On behalf of Kaspersky lab, the British tabloid Mirror conducted a study on a 1,000 children. The study found that in the developed world, 51 percent of 10-year-old children have their personal tablet, and 33 percent have smartphones. Of the participants, 42 percent believe they have the technological skill to hide their online activities from their parents. The rate shoots up to 70 percent from the age of thirteen. The study also found that 10 percent of the children do not talk about their Internet activities with their parents. Of the participants, 27 percent use the Internet at their friends' houses rather than their own houses. The hidden use of the Internet has resulted in the use of vulgar language in about 42 percent children and violence in 28 percent. More alarmingly, 11 percent children are addicted to pornography, according to the survey. Although there is no elaborate survey about the impact of Internet misuse on Bangladeshi children, the recent surge in despicable crimes committed by youngsters should raise some alarms. More and more youngsters are accessing the Internet every day. Internet use among 15-18-yearolds is increasing by 3.3 percent annually. To raise awareness about the safe use of the Internet, UNICEF Bangladesh and the ICT department of the government have decided to join forces. Recently the two parties signed an MoU on this issue. The ICT department is trying to provide proper guidelines, along with drafting ICT-related policies and directives regarding safe Internet browsing. BTRC recently blocked a number of pornographic websites so that youngsters cannot access them.

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Professor Dr. Mehtab Khanam Psychologist

Addiction to the Internet is spreading across the country like wildfire. Youngsters are getting access to the Internet before getting a proper education on it. Age inappropriate and harmful content is so easily accessible on the Internet that youngsters are engulfed by it. They are becoming victims of heinous cyber crimes, and often end up committing serious crimes too. Porn addiction is becoming a huge concern and teenagers are the most affected group. We have to look at the bigger picture to solve this problem. The parents' responsibilities, along with steps taken by educational institutions have to be carefully measured. The young generation have to be taught the proper way to use the Internet. Cybercriminals have to be brought to justice and punished appropriately. Prevention of cybercrime sh ould be a top priority project.

Harmful effects of excessive use of technology

Disruption of sleep pattern: Smartphone, tablet, laptop, etc., are light emitting devices, and the blue light emitted from them can decrease the melatonin level in our body. Melatonin is one of the main hormones that keeps our internal clock going. It tells our body when to fall asleep and when to wake up. Studies have found that shifts in this clock can have devastating health effects because it controls not only our wakefulness but also the functions of our body organs. Lack of sleep leads to various types of brain damage as well, and the brain decreases the creation of new cells.

Lack of concentration: In the modern age of technology, a wide range of technological devices are always surrounding us. However helpful, at times these devices can act as great distracters to our productivity by destroying our concentration. For example, sometimes we browse the internet searching for a particular topic, but end up visiting many other Lack of concentration: In the modern age of technology, a wide range of technological devices are always surrounding us. However helpful, at times these devices can act as great distracters to our productivity by destroying our concentration. For example, sometimes we browse the internet searching for a particular topic, but end up visiting many other irrelevant websites. By doing so, we are wasting precious time.

Damage to memory capacity: Excessive dependence on technology is severely impacting our brain’s memory capacity. People have two types of memories: long-term and short-term. The depth of our intelligence relies on our ability to transfer information from short-term memory to long-term memory. Any disruption in the process creates a lasting problem in the entire system. While our long-term memory has a nearly unlimited capacity, the short-term memory has more limited storage. When we browse the Internet for long hours, our brain constantly soaks up information. Information overload makes it harder for the brain to retain information. The Internet has made it exceptionally easy for us to get information about anything we want to know. Since we know that information is just a fingertip away, we subconsciously stop trying to remember things. A recent Scientific American article likened the Internet to the brain’s “external hard drive,” explaining that the social aspect of remembering has been replaced by new digital tools. Loss of reading comprehension: Excessive use of so many technological devices can significantly shorten a person’s attention span. As a result, their reading comprehension power suffers a lot. While reading, their brain cannot retain information properly. A form of addiction: The online world is full of entertaining content. There are hundreds of websites for free games, which is a great attraction to children and youngsters. They become so engrossed by such content that they forget everything else. A 2012 study found that spending too much time on the Internet has the same markers as drug or alcohol addiction, as it can completely take over the user's life.

Waves and radiation: Digital wireless networking technology and various technological devices have a detrimental effect on human health. Wireless technology relies on microwave signals and radiation. Radiation is energy that travels through space in the form of waves or particles. While limited exposure to radiation does not do much harm, excessive exposure can cause multifaceted harm to physical and mental health. Radiation can destroy living cells in the human body. Alpha and beta rays can cause burns on the skin while gamma rays affect the structure of cells. High doses of radiation exposure can cause various types of cancer. Long term exposure to radiation can decrease a person’s immunity, and can cause long-term physical and mental handicap. The harmful effects may even be passed down from one generation to the other. Wi-Fi radiation: Wi-Fi, Bluetooth, and other wireless technologies are frequently being used in our day-today life. Wi-Fi modems or wireless routers use a form of electromagnetic radiation that sends signals to our electronic devices such as the PC, laptop, smartphone, etc. These routers, frequently used in offices and households, emit a dangerous level of electromagnetic radiation. Researchers at Wageningen University in the Netherlands said radiation emitted from Wi-Fi technology is not only harmful to human health, but also to plants and greenery in the surrounding area. Their research has found that leaves of trees close to Wi-Fi network sources develop a visible layer of lead-like substance over them. When PCs or mobile devices search for an Internet connection, the signal they send creates an electromagnetic field that emits radiation. Excessive exposure to this radiation can cause a number of serious diseases, including cancer and mental imbalance.

Mobile phone radiation: Mobile phone radiation doses are considered to be very small as the emissions are low power (short range), but many recent studies have found a strong link between phone radiation and many fatal diseases. Dr. Devra Davis, the author of "Disconnect--The Truth about Cellphone Radiation," has been researching the safety hazards of radiation emanating from cell phones. She claims that putting the cellphone in a breast pocket or near the chest directly impacts the heart. In fact, many researchers have suggested keeping the phone away from the body even while talking on it. It is important to realize that as long as the cell phone is on, it emits radiation intermittently. So keeping a cell phone in a pocket or close to the body immediately subjects the carrier to constant radiation exposure. Previous studies have found that cell phone radiation can affect men's sperm count and the quality and motility of their sperm. Mobile radiation is especially harmful to pregnant women as it can cause damage to their unborn children. One in every four children who live in close exposure to mobile phone radiation remains at constant medical risk. Prof. Dr. Pran Gopal Dutta, former vice chancellor of Bangabandhu Sheikh Mujib Medical University has said, “The temperature of our head can rise up to 1 degree after talking for 15 minutes on a cell phone. It can cause damage to the ears and brain alike. Some researchers have also found a connection between autism and mobile radiation.”

Computer radiation: Specialists say that using a computer for more than 8 hours straight can damage the tissues of our body. A computer is a light source, so looking at a screen for a long time can damage vision. According to the National Radiation Prevention Council of America, longterm exposure to computer radiation can affect the brain, disrupt the normal cycle of hormones, and expose body cells to various types of ailments. Those who spend a lot of time in front of the PC constantly suffer from dry eyes and many other eye ailments. Pregnant women who spend long hours in front of the PC are at risk of miscarriage or giving birth to premature or stillborn babies. The electromagnetic waves of computers cause this damage. Online extremism and radicalization: In recent years, terrorism has become the most feared word worldwide. Unfortunately, the Internet is being used as a medium for spreading propaganda and recruiting youths to radical militant groups. While most militant groups such as Al-Qaida and Taliban used to recruit members offline, Islamic State actively searches out potential recruits and grooms them online. Initially, they display incidents of attacks and oppression on Muslims to potential targets and instigate anger at non-Islamic world powers. They keep on fueling that anger till it turns into full-blown hatred. Once the target takes the bait, they recruit them and train them so that they can carry out heinous attacks. The recruiters also have covert dating services online to tap women jihadis. Sometimes youths get self-radicalized by reading the content of militant groups online. They then join online forums of terrorist groups and show their interest in carrying out terrorist attacks. The recruiters screen them carefully before taking them in the group. They carefully document and monitor an aspiring jihadi’s online activities, email id, family and financial conditions, mental condition, etc. Once the primary interaction is established, they communicate with them via video chats and messaging services.

Internet addiction and impact on education

The education sector is bearing the brunt of children and teenagers’ Internet addiction. Nowadays, sixth and seventh grade students have expensive android phones. They spend an excessive amount of time online every day. Some of them spend all night chatting on Facebook or on other chat sites. As a result, they do not get enough sleep and cannot pay attention to their classroom lessons the next day.

As most parents do not monitor their children's Internet activities, these impressionable children are regularly witnessing age inappropriate content online. The quality of education is not up to the mark in our country even without taking Internet addiction into account. Some unscrupulous adults are using social networking sites to sell question papers ahead of the public exams, and many youngsters are responding to it. Many of these young children are unwittingly falling prey to Internet predators and militant organizations as well. As mentioned earlier, online radicalization is a massive concern in our country. Most of the perpetrators of recent terrorist attacks were students of renowned English medium schools. Many of them lost their way on the web and fell right into the trap of recruiters. Parents have to monitor their children’s Internet activities to ensure their safety. Many parents buy their children expensive mobile phones and gadgets at far too young an age, before teaching them appropriate use of the technology. While children should not be banned from using the Internet, they should not be given absolute freedom either.

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Mostafa Jabbar President of Bangladesh Association of Software and Information Services (BASIS)

Imposing restrictions on the Internet will not stop its misuse. As most parents in our country are not in touch with technological advancements, they try to prohibit their children from using technology. They should do just the opposite. Children should have access to technology. The reason why children are taking the wrong path is because they do not have a positive relationship with their parents. They do not share anything with their parents and there is a lack of educational content for children on the Internet. Sometimes they become attracted to harmful content out of curiosity and fall prey to online predators. The family has the primary responsibility to ensure their children's security. Not through restriction, but children have to be given the opportunity to grow up with technology freely with proper guidance.

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