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ABSTRACT

The explosion of the internet has improved global communication and created a significant impact in our lives. With the advent of broadband wireless internet access in Singapore, our adolescents are spending intensive hours in cyberspace everyday and everywhere to meet their educational, entertainment, social and emotional needs. While they are going through this transitional stage of their life in seeking the ‘Who am I’ answers, this article reviews and seeks to understand what they do on the internet. It was discovered that both U.S. and Singapore adolescents enjoy interactive cyber communication with their peers and sharing common interest such as on-line games and audio/video downloading. An action research on a group of 35 adolescents in Singapore has revealed some interesting patterns in their internet engagement. This emerging engagement cannot be ignored by parents and teachers as we discuss our roles in protecting and nurturing our adolescents.

Literature Review

Introduction

The Singapore Government is systematically and strongly promoting the use of information technology. One of its strategies is to make it compulsory that 30% of the school curriculum to have an information technology component and to be computer-based by 2002 (Infocomm Development Authority of Singapore, 2000). Naturally, the advocacy of Internet use is part of this omnipresent attempt. Young Singaporeans are placed right in the midst of all these changes and soon Internet use will be commonplace given the Government's ubiquitous promotion. As an academic staff in the Polytechnic, my objective is to study what our adolescent students do on the internet. By having a better understanding of their engagement on the internet, it would help us as facilitators to identify their interests, needs and to understand what motivates them. This literature review covers some surveys on adolescents conducted in the United States, studies on the impact of the internet on adolescents’ behaviour and a regional governmental conference on cyber endangerment.

United States Adolescents’ Engagement on the Internet

As the U.S. adolescent internet usage grew exponentially in the last decade, a number of correspondent expectations have emerged (Gross, 2000). Gross performed a research to identify the activities that adolescents in suburban California engaged in on the internet and why they perform them. She discovered the following: (1) that gender predicts usage, i.e., boys spend more time online, surfing the web and playing violent games, while girls chat or shop online; (2) that internet use causes social isolation and depression, especially for teens; and (3) that adolescents use the internet for anonymous identity experimentation. By means of highly detailed daily reports of adolescents’ home internet usage and peer-related adjustment, the present research sought to compare these expectations with the actual experiences of early and mid-adolescents in 2000 and 2001. For the most part, adolescent boys’ and girls’ online activities have become more similar than different. On average, boys and girls alike described their online social interaction as (1) occurring in private settings such as e-mail and instant messages, (2) with friends who are also part of their daily, offline lives, and (3) devoted to fairly ordinary yet intimate topics such as gossiping with friends (Gross, 2000).

This is an interesting article that relates the conflicts faced by adolescents. According to Erikson, adolescents are experiencing a transitional stage of their life between childhood and adulthood where they need to deal with the conflict between identity attainment and identity diffusion (Berk, 2002). Gross(2000) discovered that adolescents need to explore their identity through identity play and role experimentation. Apparently, the internet serves as an ideal platform for them to play an anonymous role in their email and...
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