“The Internet is twisting the values”

Older people are frightened by the way younger people connect to the internet and mobile phones. In Macau, there are warnings of over-dependence on mobile phones that may lead to excessive attention to online social communication and less interest in real life. 

MB April 2020 Special Report | Youngsters living on a keyboard

“The Internet is twisting the values of [Macau] young people. We are trying to see what we can do in order to correct this problem for them not to deviate from desirable values,” the chief of the DSEJ’s Department of Youth, Cheong Man Fai, said last year during a press conference after a Youth Council’s plenary meeting. 

When commenting on issues concerning in the implementation of the “Macau Youth Policy 2012-2020” plan, Cheong, quoted by Macau Daily Times newspaper, adds: “Sun Yat-Sen University [the institution in charge of the plan’s mid-term evaluation report] also gave us opinions on this matter. We would like to focus on the cultivation of good judgment in young people. That is our long-term goal.” According to the same source, DSEJ’s chief also noted that “raising the capacity of independent thinking” is an inscribed goal in the plan that will conclude this year. 

This is obviously not just a problem in Macau. 

But there are some characteristics that are idiosyncratic, where all the younger adults are netizens. 

The most recent research from the “The Macao Internet Project,” conducted by Macao Association for Internet Research and eRS e-Research Lab, show that 53 percent of the mobile phone users “agreed that mobile phone dependence is a normal phenomenon and 36 percent of the mobile phone users agreed that they have become mobile phone-dependent.” 

The Internet Usage Trends in Macau includes a “comprehensive calculation of the mobile phone dependence scale” (normal level: 20-49, warning level: 50-79, dangerous level: 80-100) and the average total score of mobile phone users is 40.5. 

Pedestrians walk past a computer showing the login page for facebook in traditional Chinese characters in Hong Kong on May 14, 2012. AFP PHOTO / Antony DICKSON

But “from the point of view of score distribution, 76 percent of mobile phone users scored within the normal level, 24 percent of mobile phone users scored within the warning level of 50-79, and the ratio of mobile phone users within the dangerous level of 80-100 is close to zero. Mobile phone users with different demographic characteristics have an average score of 50 or less, which is at a normal level.” 

Mobile phone users (46.1 percent) aged 18-34 and students (44.7 percent) have relatively high scores, which is closer to the warning level, says the document. This means, “there is still a certain percentage of users whose mobile phone-dependence is close to or at a warning level.” Among them, says the freshest data from “The Macao Internet Project,” the score of mobile phone users of “student groups is most worthy of attention. Educators and parents or guardians of students should review the current situation, conduct in-depth communication and correct guidance on the use of mobile phones.” 

The document ends with this alert: “over-dependence on mobile phones may also lead to excessive attention to online social communication and less interest in real life, which influence the formation of sound personality. Therefore, it is necessary to pay attention to social interaction in real life, and to cultivate hobbies extensively, to avoid excessive concentration of entertainment and social activities on various mobile phone applications.” 

“Over-dependence on mobile phones may also lead to excessive attention to online social communication and less interest in real life, which influence the formation of sound personality” – Internet Usage Trends in Macau 

Netizens are worried about privacy. 

The results of The Internet Usage Trends in Macau also show that 46 percent of the users evaluated the Internet privacy in Macau as “safe” while 39 percent regarded it as “unsafe”. 

The team of “The Macao Internet Project” underlines that the ratio of the former has increased compared with 2018 (39 percent). “But the ratio of netizens worrying about the security of Macao’s network privacy is still relatively high.” In addition, 27 percent of the netizens think that they have been through violation of internet privacy, similar to 2018 (29 percent). 

The research also reveals how nearly 50 percent of netizens do not know that websites use cookies to record user behaviour or do not know what cookies are, “showing that some netizens have insufficient recognition of cookies.” 

In the 2019 report, the team led by Professor Angus Cheong states that, “the resulting network privacy issues need to attract attention from all walks of life.”