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Cab rides, children and the Internet

As clever as they were, my parents were no Google, so will Internet access make future generations smarter, stupider or something entirely different?

Last weekend I was sitting in traffic, talking to a cab driver about his two-year-old son and we ended up discussing how much kids know today. But what made this conversation a little more interesting than the usual blurb about knowledgeable youths was the Internet, and how it's opened up far more information for his son than he ever had.

Occasionally I'm referred to as a 'digital native', which is an annoying marketing term used to describe people who grew up with the Internet. But I didn't have the Internet from day one, I started using it much later. This got me thinking: would having Internet access from birth make any difference to your mind, your soul, your life?

Considering the profound effect of my parents on my academic development (especially during homework time), I can't imagine how having Google changes the game. As clever as they were, my parents were no Google, so will Internet access make future generations smarter? Or with all this knowledge at their fingertips, will children simply be better plagiarists? Is the 'knowledge' that's available online so unreliable that they will learn incorrect information?

I suspect the answer is annoyingly -- as with all these kinds of questions -- somewhere in between all the possible answers. Or am I being trite? Is the Internet any different to the introduction of books, or TV? I'm not sure, to be honest, but some clever online historian will probably round it all up in a neat explanation on Wikipedia, which will get Dugg and then put on Slashdot.