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Test promotes Internet awareness
By Chen Weihua (China Daily)
Updated: 2006-01-23 05:44

SHANGHAI: China has amazed the world with its rapid developments in the information technology sector. It has 111 million netizens, making it second only to the United States in terms of the number of users.

But equally shocking and worrying to many parents, teachers and lawmakers is the alarming number of children now addicted to the Internet.

A week-long experiment, which started this weekend in Shanghai, aims to persuade the public, especially teenagers, not to over-use various forms of media, particularly the Internet.

The study splits 24 students into three groups: one group is not allowed to watch TV; another cannot log onto the Internet; the third cannot do either.

Group members are also required to keep an honest daily log of their actions, even if they cannot resist the temptation to turn on the TV or log onto the Internet.

Zhang Zhi'an, a doctorate student at Fudan University Journalism School, who is in charge of the study, said promoting "media literacy" among teenagers has become an urgent task.

Many have become concerned that youngsters spend too much time on the Internet, in chatrooms, looking at pornography and playing games.

Just last week, lawmakers in Shanghai called for measures to deal with increasing popular "cyber marriages" among students.

"The public, especially youngsters, are vulnerable to the harmful influence of certain media sources, since the messages conveyed are more or less negative and unhealthy.

"The situation will become worse if the public does not know how to differentiate and exercise self-control," Zhang said.

"Media literacy aims to help the public to better use the media for their development and in their participation in society," said Zhang, who has, along with colleagues, launched China's first media literacy website.

Zhang said he does not expect students to change after just a week, but he hopes the small-scale experiment will be "enlightening."

Wang Yifan, a 16-year-old participating in the study, said he plays games for 13 hours a day during winter vacation.

"The experiment may change my habits a little, but I will continue to play online games next week," Wang told China Daily yesterday.

A 2005 study by the China Teenagers Internet Association released recently shows that 13.2 per cent of teenagers are addicted to the Internet and another 13 per cent are "Internet dependent."

Many Internet games contain horrible robberies, suicides and murders, and scams that begin in cyber chatrooms are constant making the news headlines.

A poll showed that 43 per cent of primary school students surveyed admire cyber hackers and 33 per cent aspire to become hackers themselves.

Every day, about 100,000 minors are illegally admitted to some 1,500 Internet bars across Shanghai.

(China Daily 01/23/2006 page3)

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