VIRTUAL marriage has become a new fashion among pupils in Shenzhen, with many children "marrying" several times and even "giving birth" to virtual babies online, an investigation by the Shenzhen Evening News reported yesterday.
A survey by the newspaper of 49 pupils at a primary school in Luohu District showed that 24 percent of them had virtual "marriages", and 14 percent of them had even "married" twice.
Parents and educators worry that the virtual marriages would lead the kids into misunderstanding the reality of marriage.
Qi Qi, a fourth-grader with a reputable primary school in Futian District, has married three times and divorced once online, in a popular computer game Fantasy Westward Journey.
The game, developed by Internet service provider Netease, awards players extra credits for their marriages. About 37 percent of the kids polled by the Shenzhen Evening News said they had virtual marriages to "increase their credits in the game," and 28 percent of them said they did it for fun.
Qi Qi has two accounts, one female and one male. He is the "husband" of two players who claim to be female, and the "wife" of a player who claims to be male.
Qi Qi knows one of his virtual wives --- Ya Ya, his classmate and another Fantasy Westward Journey player. "I sent her virtual roses, and she gave me wine and chocolate," said Qi Qi, who also has two virtual "babies" with Ya Ya.
Qi Qi said his standards for choosing an online spouse are "high status" and "wealth" in the game which is why he "married" Ya Ya.
But when he grows up, will he marry and divorce as frequently? Qi Qi said he would not let virtual marriage interfere with his real life. "I clearly know the differences between the virtual and the real world," he said confidently.
For children of Qi Qi's age, real marriage is still something far away.
According to the Shenzhen Evening News survey, 65 percent of the children have never considered the question of "What is marriage." And 73 percent of them said they would end their virtual marriages if their parents insisted.
But for teenagers, it's much easier to blur the line between real and virtual marriages. A junior high student identified as Guo Guo said many of her classmates had acted as if they were really in love with their virtual spouses. "In the game, the virtual husbands and wives claim to love each other so much. How can you say the virtual love will not influence your real emotions?" argued Guo Guo.
Although Qi Qi claimed that he would not bring his virtual love to reality, his mother, identified by his surname Zhang, is greatly worried.
"I don't understand why game developers put marriages into the games. With children marrying and divorcing so easily online, they may become irresponsible when they do marry in reality," she said, adding that children may get upset if their future spouses are not as prefect virtual spouses.
Zhang said she encouraged Qi Qi to play outdoors at weekends, but the boy would rather play games at home.
Wang Qiuying, director of the student consultancy center of Shenzhen Middle School, said the children enjoyed virtual love because they are lonely. "They have few peers to play with, and they don't have brothers or sisters. So they turn to the virtual world," said Wang.
To protect their privacy, the children's names have been changed.
By: Source: Szdaily web edition