Education on Internet ‘important’ for youngsters
      Author:Anonymous     Source: http://content.monster.com.hk     Release Time:3/21/2011 10:21:09 AM     View Times:10577

Most people nowadays spend several hours on social networking websites such as Facebook, LinkedIn, and Twitter. While it can build human capital, social networking seems to have a dark side, “creating addiction problems and raising privacy concerns”.
“Not only [do we love] social networks, but we all love the Internet. It’s very convenient, but at the same time it can cause a lot of problems,” said Lei Chin Pang, a senior instructor in the Department of Communication at the University of Macau.
“So, while it is very convenient and useful, there are many other issues that people should be aware of,” he told the TDM Talk Show’s audience.
It’s an undeniable fact that the Internet is becoming more and more dominant in our world. According to Lei, computers and Internet are an important part of peoples’ lives nowadays, changing traditional habits.
“In the past, for example, people use to spend more time together as a family, talking or watching television. But today, after dinner most kids run back to their rooms and computers,” said the scholar.
On the other hand, he added, “The Internet is also changing the way we consume information and interact with other people”.
“For instance, instead of reading a long article, young people nowadays prefer to read short stories from different sources in order to save time and because they lack patience,” said Lei, who is leading a study on Media and Society.
But while many may think that it is fun to interact online, there are basic concerns that people should be aware of, he warned.
“Today’s problem is that people sometimes cannot distinguish if they are sharing information on a private or public space,” he said.
“Talking about Facebook. You can have 500 friends, but do you really know them all? So, when you share information are you really sharing it only with your friends?” Lei asked.
This issue, he added, gets greater proportions when talking about youngsters.

“I think young people, especially teenagers, get easily addicted to the Internet and some of these social network tools, because they are at an age where they are looking for means for self-expression and identification.
“They may feel they are lonely and that people around them don’t understand what they are going through, so they find it hard to communicate with their parents or teachers,” the scholar said.
To get around what they feel is a problem, they turn to tools like Facebook, “which they may think is the perfect platform for them because they can express themselves freely”.
However, “youngsters don’t know how to use these kinds of platforms in a proper way,” Lei warned, mentioning it raises privacy concerns. “Sometimes I’m surprised even with my students because of the volume of information they post on Facebook, something that may be unsafe.”
Bearing in mind that youngsters don’t use Internet tools properly, “education is very important”.
“For example, nowadays we don’t have new media literacy or computer literacy at elementary or high school education, but children start using computers and surfing on the Internet at a very young age.
“However, they have no idea of the impact that their actions can have if they are not supervised,” Lei explained.
The problem, he said, is that just like in real life, there are a lot of scams on the Internet, including people with fake identities and frauds.

Growing trend

During last weekend’s TDM Talk Show, Lei Chin Pang talked also about the impact that these social networks have on real life, like the recent case of the Jasmine Revolution in the Middle East, where young people rallied through Facebook groups to create an agenda for change in their countries.
Since online culture is crossing over into mainstream culture, these kind of social networks “are not only a place to find friends, but are also a platform for discussion or to organise events,” he said. “In fact, you can see real actions that were sparked on the Internet.”
According to the scholar, unlike mainstream media, “Internet offers everyone a space for debate and to talk about society issues, things that can have an impact on peoples’ daily lives”.
And that is why governments worldwide have to keep pace with this new reality, including China’s government, he said. “Of course it can be a good or a bad thing for a government, but the better they make use of it the easy will be to deal with it.”
For Lei, there is no way to slow down the growing impact that social networks have on peoples’ lives, but the more information people have the better they will be able to deal with eventual threats.

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