The Infinite Scrolling Sponge
How long have your children been on the internet today? Can you see them from where you are right now? Are you monitoring their time with screen time apps?
What about yourself. How long have you been on the internet today? Why were you using the internet initially: work, social media, news, eBay, a quick lookup for that film with thingy in it…?
Have you ended up getting distracted, being on it longer than you planned?
The internet is vast. That is what makes it so amazing. But because it is so big, it can easily become a sponge, soaking up your time and your life. It is so very easy to get distracted from what you should really be doing.
Here’s a secret of the internet: Web site creators design them to distract you once you visit them.
Maybe your children should be doing their school work, rather than chatting with friends, or being fed the latest YouTube videos, or Twitter, Facebook and TikTok feeds.
Have you done the same? Have you recently wanted to know something and gone to quickly look it up on the Internet? Thirty minutes later you are still there, probably not even having found out what you originally wanted. You might have found out which celebrity did something good/bad today, or you saw that cat video everyone is talking about. But you didn’t find out what YOU were after.
Can you even remember what it was?!
It should be easy to find information on the internet, yet there is a forest of distractions between you and what you want.
The worst internet sponge ever invented is what is known as the “Infinite Scroll“. Think of your timeline in any social media application, or the suggested videos list down the side in YouTube. When you scroll to the bottom of the screen, there are always more posts, or videos. And so it goes on, and on, and on.
You can spend the rest of your life scrolling, and scrolling. You never have to leave the site.
Websites love this. They WANT this. Once they have you on their site, they don’t want you to leave.
Getting you to stay on their site accomplishes two things for them:
- You aren’t looking at the competition
- They are collecting data on what you are looking at and clicking on, data they can make money from.
Giving you an infinite feed of stuff to read and watch is they key way they accomplish this. It may be “friends”, or people you follow, or “suggested content”, or a “related news story”. Whatever, your eyeballs are focused on their site.
How do you fight this infinite abyss?
Take Back Control from Infinity
There are 2 simple things you can do to help you and your child use their time more effectively on the internet, avoiding the distraction of the infinitely scrolling abyss.
Both methods are connected with 1 symbol:
Boring! I bet you are thinking. Also: “How the hell am I going to get my kids to think that is interesting?”
BUT – This one symbol will ensure your child gets back some control of their time on the internet. When you are using the search facility on a website, you are in control because you are searching for what you want, rather than what the site owner wants you or your child to read, or watch, or click on.
The change in website behavior over the recent years, with the infinite scrolling timelines and suggested items to click on next has made it all too easy to get ‘stuck’ on a site. Add to this the explosion of Apps on phones, which are in effectively just shortcuts to a site owner’s little corner of the internet – the infinite abyss gets deeper each day.
Apps, also means the ‘old days’ of Google (or if you are really, really old in internet usage, Yahoo!) being the first page view on the internet are long gone.
Going on the Internet and the cloud, doing what YOU want, and then getting off again has become harder and harder.
Using Search is the best way out of the distraction quagmire.
Search Engines and Searching a Site
When we think of Search on the Internet, a Search Engine is what will come to mind for most people.
But even this is not simple in our modern age.
Wayback when, literally, this was the typical first step of an internet session.
Messy, yes. But only 1 page. No scroll bars. Also – Only 1 internet ad!!
Today, my Microsoft Edge ‘Home Page’ is:
Look at all the distractions! And yes, that mixture of news stories and ads is an infinite abyss if you keep scrolling down. The actual search bar is hidden somewhere near the top.
If you used this browser to look up who starred opposite Ryan Reynolds in Deadpool 2, what are the chances you have a quick look at that story about Lewis Hamilton, or the Royal Family, or the thing about easy money with Amazon?
That’s why you need to focus on the magnifying glass icon at the top of the screen. Type in “Deadpool 2 villian” find out what you need and get on with you life.
An Even Better Way?
An even better way, something that comes with experience, and something worth helping your children with, is not to simply “Google it”, or “Bing It”, or (if this is still even possible) “Yahoo! it”. Instead go to a website you know and use their search icon for what you want.
The reasons this is better is two-fold:
- You are going to a site you already know and trust
- You are avoiding the paid for ads/results from a search engine
Getting to the information you want with as few a distractions is the key.
Q: How Do I Sell Boring to my Kids? – A: Two Types of Internet
Search isn’t the most exciting thing in the world. But using the magnifying glass is efficient. Yes, I know: Efficiency = Boring.
Try this for yourself, and then with your children. Think of there being 2 types of internet.
The first type of internet is the internet I go on to find something out, and then get off again.
The second type of internet is where I am willing to swim in the infinite sea and scroll to my hearts content, just letting the current (or suggested content and what ever comes up from the bottom of the screen) take me where it wants.
The sell to the kids?
When doing [school]work, or wanting to know something, use the first internet. You’ll get your work done faster.
That leaves more time for scrolling, chatting, gaming etc. etc. on the second type of internet.
- 1st Internet – The internet I use to get things done and then get on with my life
- 2nd Internet – The internet I allow my self to be suggested to endlessly, the internet where I go with the flow
Do it the other way, and get lost in the infinite abyss of the 2nd Internet, meaning you’ll be stressed and tired getting the work done you should really have done earlier.