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November 23, 2009

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Middle school online chatters provide shocks

A WIDE-RANGING study of middle school students across Chinese mainland involving online friendships has thrown up some alarming statistics.

For example, only 6 percent of middle school students said making online friends enhanced their studies, while 41 percent said the practice had a negative impact on both their studies and lives, according to the survey released by the Shanghai Research Institute of Educational Science.

The project, under the Ministry of Education, surveyed about 2,000 middle school students in 10 municipalities and provinces including Shanghai, Beijing and Guangdong.

Conducted by both questionnaire and interview, it studied how middle school students made Internet friends and the effects of online chatting.

Sun Caiping and Tang Yan, the project's leaders, said the survey surprised experts, as more than 40 percent of students said their lives had been influenced by online friends.

About 35 percent said they were influenced by online friends' points of view, while 5 percent said they were so reliant on their online friends that the relationships severely influenced their moods.

Some students said they even skipped classes for online chatting or chatted throughout the night.

However, in a note of comment sense, less than 1 percent of students said online friends gave them more support than real-life friends.

Frankness, humor and politeness were the top qualities surveyed students chose when they made online friends.

Girls said they generally deleted a person if he or she used bad language.

Most students surveyed said they wanted to make online friends five or 10 years older than themselves.

About 9 percent said they cared about online friends' overall qualities, 17 percent cited talent, 19 percent appearance and 31 percent character.

The rest said they were guided by gut instinct.

The hottest topics in online chatting were daily lives, emotions and personal experiences, while less than 30 percent discussed studies.

Overall life was girls' favorite topic, while boys were more interested in sex, the recent survey said.

As the Internet is an anonymous platform, 69 percent of students liked chatting for the mystery.

The reasons for making online friends were diverse.

Nearly half wanted to find emotional support from online friends and 38 percent only chatted online while in a bad mood.

Some said they had a feeling of "going back home" on Internet forums, saying the greetings and questions from cyber friends were kinder than those of their parents.


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