Gone are the days of pen pals and leaving messages on answering machines. Now, in addition to texting, there’s e-mail, Facebook messaging, Twitter updates and Chinese Facebook clones like Renren and Kaixin. Through these online social platforms, students can converse with their fellow peers and even their teachers. But what is the weight of these social media platforms? And what are some drawbacks to socializing online? beijingkids chatted with students from the Beijing World Youth Academy to weigh the pros and cons of socializing through websites.
Akane Fujimoto, Japan, 16, lived in Beijing for seven years
Andre Chan, UK, 15, lived in Beijing for four years
Jessie Kim, South Korea, 17, lived in Beijing for seven years
Johnson Loh, China, 16, lived in Beijing for 16 years
Which social media sites do you use and why?
Jessie: I use Facebook. Actually, I use it when I go back to South Korea.
Akane: I use Facebook in Japan, so that I can meet up with my old friends.
Andre: Yeah, I think that it’s a very good way to get in touch with your old friends. Recently, I’ve actually found one of my friends that I lost contact with.
Johnson: I use Renren everyday. It’s pretty much the same thing as Facebook. You see other people’s friends and interesting things like how different groups of friends are connected in some way.
What do you think makes these sites so popular?
Andre: You can find out a lot more about other people.
Johnson: You can find out gossip and news – even school news.
Jessie: You can share a lot of things, like pictures and videos.
Are there unspoken social rules that teens should follow online?
Jessie: Some people change their faces with Photoshop for profile pictures, and I think it’s something you shouldn’t do.
Johnson: You can comment on other people’s photos and pages but nothing offensive.
Would you friend your family members or teachers on sites like Facebook?
Johnson: Absolutely not.
Andre: Maybe a sibling.
What about teachers?
Andre: Maybe some cool teachers, like Flemming.
Jessie: Some of the younger teachers.
Johnson: No. Some of the older teachers are okay though.
Akane: A teacher that I can trust.
How do you balance schoolwork with being social online?
Johnson: I don’t really balance it. I lose track of time.
Andre: I can be on Facebook and see something interesting my friends posted, click on it and get distracted by something else.
At what age do you think using social media is appropriate?
Johnson: I don’t think that there should be any age limitations. As long as you can read and write, it’s fine.
Akane: I think middle school. There are adverts that you need to be careful of.
Johnson: How would you recognize them though? What if you’re not old enough to know what they are.
Andre: I think that you should be at least a teenager if you want to go on social networking sites.
Should parents monitor their children’s use on these social media sites?
Johnson: It depends on how good or bad their kid is.
Do your parents ever monitor your online activty?
Are there any safety tips teens should follow when using these sites?
Johnson: Be careful with Trojan viruses and hackers.
Jessie: Try not to add personal details.
Johnson: Like your phone number or address.
Andre: You can’t show too much of your own information online.
Akane: You have to know the site that you’re using, don’t sign up just because you think it’s safe; you need to be careful.
Do you ever add friends or others that you may not know?
Andre: I have added a couple of people that I don’t know that well.
Jessie: I reject them immediately if I don’t recognize them.
Do you think the site or the user carries the responsibility to be safe online?
Johnson: It’s absolutely [up to]the individuals.
Andre: It’s also the sites responsibility to its users though.
Akane: I think it’s both.
Johnson: You make the decisions online. No one forces you to do anything.