Pictured right to left:
Miranda Melcher, US, 16, lived in Beijing for six years
Benjamin Tan, Singapore, 15, lived in Beijing for 14 years
Francesca Cociani, Italy, 17, lived in Beijing for three years
Maximilian Afnan, UK, 16, lived in Beijing for five years
The Internet has become part of our daily lives and we can hardly imagine life without it. We rely on it for work, educationand entertainment. It’s also essential for keeping in touch with friends and family. And at times, we find it difficult to unplug ourselves from it. beijingkids sat down with students from Dulwich College Beijing to discuss the role of the Internet in their lives and how they keep their Internet usage in check – most of the time.
How many hours do you spend on the Internet each day?
Francesca: About three hours for school and one and half hours for personal reasons.
Miranda: I’m always connected to the Internet; e-mail is always open. But I usually use it for bursts of time.
Ben: At home, I probably spend five to six hours. But a lot of the times it’s in the background so it’s easy for me to access. I don’t use it for six hours straight.
What do you spend most of your time doing on the Internet?
Francesca: Talking to friends and researching things for school.
Miranda: I usually spend most of my time talking to people, trying to get stuff done or reading the news.
Ben: Catching up with friends. A lot of them don’t live in Beijing.
Francesca: If all my friends and family members lived in Beijing, I wouldn’t spend as much time talking to them online.
Do you think teens are addicted to the Internet?
Miranda: I think it’s not so much the Internet that teens seem to be addicted to as the idea of communicating with other people, and Facebook seems to be a very convenient way of doing that.
Are your parents addicted to theInternet, too?
Max: If they are, they don’t tell me. Miranda: My dad has always worked with technology companies. He’s the definition of a computer geek, so he’s addicted to the Internet. But my mother still doesn’t know how to operate a MacBook Air after having it for three years.
Ben: When I was young, my mom used to say that the Internet is bad and addictive, but now she has a laptop and carries it around all the time. And I think she’s slightly embarrassed by the fact that she finds it very useful.
Is Internet "addiction" a problem?
Francesca: I think for some people, especially with Facebook, it’s a serious problem. They get worried or upset when they don’t have access to the Internet.
Ben: If my Internet fails for two or three hours, something inside me dies. I try to call somebody for help or comfort. It’s an addiction, and I accept it. But it’s the norm now, so people don’t really see it as an addiction. Also, I don’t think it’s an addiction to the Internet, but an addiction to always communicating with people.
Miranda: When the Internet goes out in our house, my sister and I will both go through a few minutes of panic, but then I’ll just do something else.
Max: I think the Internet makes procrastinating easy.
What’s the best way to manage the amount of time you spend online?
Francesca: Instead of your parents putting a limit on the time you use the Internet, just tell yourself to turn it off and do something else. I think it’s all about being responsible.
Ben: I think it’s about self-discipline. There’s only so much that your parents can do before you feel like they are infringing on your rights. You just need to force yourself. It’s something you learn.
Are social networks such as Facebook an adequate substitute to connecting face-to-face?
Miranda: Facebook may not be a perfect or even a good substitutefor face-to-face interaction, but it’s the best thing we have [for communicating with people outside Beijing].
Francesca: I think it’s good if you use it to talk to people you wouldn’t talk to everyday, but I find it extremely sad when people have friends they only know on Facebook.
Ben: I don’t see Facebook as a replacement for face-to-face contact. But being in an international community is hard because people move and you are not with your relatives and friends a lot of the times; Facebook can really lessen that burden.
Max: I wasn’t interested in Facebook until I moved here and now I can keep in contact with people in the UK.