The rules of friending, tagging and blocking
With social networking sites such as Facebook becoming de rigeur for the very young and even the slightly old, making friends has become a bit more complicated. beijingkids sat down with four students – all friends with each other on Facebook – from the Harrow International School Beijing about privacy issues online, who they’d never be friends with and the benefits of being connected to so many people.
Abe Chikaka, Zimbabwean, has lived in Beijing for two years
Antonia Burchard-Levine, Canadian, has lived in Beijing for one year
Hansen Bi, American, has lived in Beijing for four years
Gwen Li, British has lived in Beijing for four years
Are you members of online networking sites?
Hansen: I’m a member of Facebook because it’s like simplified e-mail. And all my friends are on it, so I might as well.
Antonia: I’m also a member of Facebook, because it’s a good way to keep in touch with old friends as well as the new ones you make.
Gwen: I was dragged into it by a friend, and I agree with Antonia. It’s a good way of keeping in touch with people without getting overly personal. You can control how personal you want to make it.
Abe: I’m a member because most of my friends have it.
How much time do you spend on these sites?
Gwen: When you first join, it’s cool, but after a while it gets annoying, and you start using it less and less.
Antonia: I’m the same way. The first time I got it I was obsessed with it but now, I spend about an hour a day.
Abe: Maybe three times a week. When you have it for a long time, the excitement fades.
Hansen: It varies for me. If I have a lot of homework, then I don’t check it as often.
How has it made an impact on your social life?
Gwen: It puts you back in touch with friends. But other than that, you get random people adding you. I ignore them.
Antonia: I don’t use it to meet people, I use it to keep in contact with friends. It’s not like I would meet someone on Facebook and then meet up.
Abe: Definitely not. That’s kind of strange.
What’s bad about these sites?
Hansen: The fact that random people can add you and access your information.
Antonia: Some people are not really careful. You can limit your profile so not everyone can see it, but I’ve read of cases of stalking. You have to be careful about it, about how much information you reveal.
Abe: I think some people you don’t know want to be your friends.
How safe do you think these sites are? Should parents monitor use of these sites?
Antonia: No. It’s mostly used by high school students. That’s when you start to have more contact with the Internet, with MSN or Facebook.
Hansen: No. There’s no age limit. But your friends are usually in the same year as you and you know them. It’s perfectly safe. When your friends are on it, then you join. And you can limit your profile.
Gwen: People don’t really bother doing that, though.
Abe: If a kid is really young, parents should monitor it to a certain extent. But when kids get older, it’s not necessary.
How about your teachers and parents being on Facebook?
Hansen: Teachers are people, too. It wouldn’t bother me. But parents? No.
Gwen: Parents? Never.
Antonia: My parents are on Facebook. They tried to add me, but I ignored them. But I don’t think I have anything to hide; they aren’t going to go through everything on my profile.
What privacy controls do you use on Facebook?
Gwen: Anyone I decide to add, I’m okay with them looking at my information. Anyone can try to add me, but if I don’t know them, I won’t add them.
Antonia: I don’t put things that are too personal online. If I feel a need to send a personal message, I only let that person see it.
Hansen: I don’t block anybody.
What if someone put up photos of you that you don’t want online?
Hansen: Detag yourself from the photos.
Gwen: Persuade them to take it off. You can also report them.
Hansen: No one reports people, though.
What do you think about social networking online?
Antonia: It’s good as long as you don’t get carried away. It’s good that the option is there. If you want to contact others, you can.
Gwen: It’s literally like having the world at your fingertips. You can have contact with people if you want to.
Abe: I think it depends on people’s motives. I know people who were getting random phone calls because they put their phone number online. They ended up deleting their account and dropping the whole thing.
Hansen: You get invited to parties. You get all these random invites for parties, but just from friends.
Are sites such as Facebook just a fad?
Gwen: In the future, I think something new might come along. Everything is a phase. Twenty years later, we’ll have something else.
Antonia: I don’t think it’s just a phase. Everyone uses Facebook, all age groups; I think we could be on it 20 years.