Skip to 0 minutes and 1 secondOK, up to now, we have concentrated upon China and the differences between our two Chinese field sites. But as anthropologists, China is also a good place from which to tackle some more general and comparative topics. So now we're going to talk about three topics, education, business, and privacy. Yeah, of course the impact of social media on education is a topic that's already received a considerable amount of attention. And that's probably because social media is so closely associated with young people. But also, there's a lot of uncertainty and anxiety about the actual effect that social media is having on young people's learning. And don't forget, Tom, the Chinese education system is often seen as being very different from everywhere else.

Skip to 0 minutes and 53 secondsYeah, that's absolutely right, Xinyuan. For example, China has this notoriously difficult university entrance examination system which puts an incredible amount of pressure on students. And the effects were really clear in my own field site, where parents were incredibly worried about the disruptive impact that social media might have on their children's learning, as we will now see in a video where a teacher of an after-school homework club explains.

Skip to 1 minute and 28 secondsYeah

Skip to 1 minute and 34 secondsThe kids born in the 1980s and 1990s, when the computer, and social networks QQ and WeChat, had just started to develop. They were something new. But I think the raising of my son will be different. They’ve basically had this thing since birth, So he won’t think of it as being new he’ll consider it one of life’s necessities He won’t be curious about it. He won’t think of it as something only well-off families have, and poor families don’t have, he won’t have these ideas. Not like we used to think, "Oh! They have a computer, their family’s really rich.’" I think my child’s generation won’t think in that way.

Skip to 2 minutes and 7 secondsThe reason that many parents send their kids here is because at home the kids won’t listen to their parents. They get home, play on the computer, watch the TV, and don’t do their homework. But if they come here and complete their homework beforehand, their parents feel better about letting them play at home, "Ah, anyway, you got your homework done, so I’ll let you play." But a lot of kids, if they don’t come here they’ll go straight home after school and watch TV, and only start doing their homework just before they go to bed, this won’t be good for either the kids or the parents

Skip to 2 minutes and 35 secondsThe situation in my field site in Southeast Turkey is quite similar. There, students and parents think that social media is not really useful for education and for learning. And for example, students preparing for important examination often close their Facebook or Twitter profiles for a few weeks or few months beforehand, so they can concentrate more on study. But the situation is totally different in the industrial China field site. Actually, in contrast to the stereotype of Chinese, those rural migrants, they are actually not as concerned about their children's education, because they see their children's future as factory workers. So rather than being a disruption, social media is seen as a quite important source of information.

Skip to 3 minutes and 24 secondsSo many postings on people's social media profiles contain valuable knowledge, which helps people to educate themselves, such as how to use spreadsheets or how to give first aid. So now that you mention it, Xinyuan, I realise that in my field site, too, people were often using social media to try and facilitate certain kinds of informal learning. So a good example of this is school children who were using it to exchange homework answers with each other, right? And another good example of this comes from our Brazilian field side, where, because it was quite poor, some of the young people felt there was a real limit to what they could get from formal education.

Skip to 4 minutes and 4 secondsAnd instead they were using social media to try to improve and develop their reading and writing skills. And a side effect of that was that actually a lot of their text-based communication that happened on social media remained inaccessible to their parents because their parents were actually illiterate. My field site in South Italy combines several of these elements. Because there teachers prohibited the use of mobile phones in class. However, students felt that they have to use mobile phones and social media at school, because home education and traditional forms of kinship and solidarity were believed to be much more effective than formal education in actually helping them to find work. OK, thanks everyone.

Skip to 4 minutes and 47 secondsSo already, we can see that the contrast within China is actually just part of a much broader comparative picture. And these attitudes towards social media come as much from cases of the specific school systems as they do from factors like employment or levels of literacy or other kinds of influences that really only emerge from our own broad-based ethnographies.

School’s out: social media and education

In this video the team discusses the impact of social media on education, both within China and in our other fieldsites.

Why do you think the effect of social media on education is such a contentious issue? If you were to examine the impact of social media on education where you live, what would be the most significant issues or findings?

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Why We Post: the Anthropology of Social Media

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