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What the Internet is doing to readers
Does reading online make you dumb?
 

The Internet is killing the book, said Motoko Rich in The New York Times. Not everyone agrees, of course, but some parents and educators are sure of it. They say declining scores on standardized reading tests prove that “hours spent prowling the Internet” are “wrecking attention spans and destroying a precious common culture that exists only through the reading of books.”

The bottom line is that “reading is good—whether it’s digital or it’s a cereal box,” said Karen Deerwester in Examiner.com’s blog Parenting Examiner. Reading print “develops concentration and a certain kind of linear analysis,” while “digital reading encourages collecting information from multiple sources and creates shared communities that defy geographic boundaries.”

There’s no use denying, said Laurie Fendrich in The Chronicle Review, that “most people will turn more and more in2 (like that?) nothing but Web readers.” But the truly successful “elite” will consist of “people who are equal masters of both Web and book reading”—those “who can move fluidly from Facebook, realpolitics.com and Twitter to War and Peace and The Origin of Species.”

“The Internet may indeed be shortening my attention span,” said Jonathan Weber in the Times Online, “and God knows what it might be doing to the pliable minds of my kids.” But “the Web and the Xbox and the mobile phone and the relentless pop culture” don’t raise children, mothers and fathers do. So kids will be fine as long as parents teach them how to get the information their brains need.

 

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