Outside the box

PUBLISHED : Sunday, 25 May, 2008, 12:00am
UPDATED : Sunday, 25 May, 2008, 12:00am

Social networking sites such as Facebook and MySpace, which feature games and quirky functions, are hugely popular with young people. But for politically conscious students, those websites lack substance.

'Social networking sites are more about fun. They don't have much educational content. You won't be inspired to explore more serious issues,' says Michael Lok, a Year 13 student from Island School.

At the other end of the spectrum, most educational websites are full of learning materials, but dull and uninspiring to use.

Michael's wish to join a fun but meaningful online group came true when iCUBED.us was set up in 2005.

Targeting teenagers aged 13 to 21, the aim of the non-profit site is to encourage users to voice their opinions on current affairs and share their concerns.

Set up by Margaret Chan, who has worked in the child development field for more than a decade, the site boasts blogs, career advice, and writing, photo and video-making contests. Working full-time

for the website as its editor-in-chief, Miss Chan says nurturing young people's social conscience and concern for others can diminish the problems plaguing modern youth.

'In the past, youth problems were mostly minor things like vandalism. Now, societies are plagued by much more severe problems like drugs and violence. They are mostly committed by listless young people,' says Miss Chan.

'I believe that one of the ways to combat the problem is to nurture them to be responsible adults.'

A team of 21 bloggers regularly posts commentaries and short features on the site, making it a treasure trove of useful, up-to-the-minute information on international affairs. The site is currently recruiting young writers to join the blogging team. A set of strict criteria has been laid out to ensure quality English writing.

'Anyone interested in becoming a blogger can send us some writing samples. Whether we sign them on with our team is decided by our editorial board,' says Miss Chan.

Stephanie Mak, Minal Khilani and Louise Schwarz joined iCUBED after hearing about it from fellow students.

The Year Thirteen students from Island School enjoy the site so much that they joined its marketing team last year.

'I'm in charge of finding sponsors. What interests me most is the career section. There's a corner where successful and famous people are invited to write about their career path and share their secrets to success. I find it very useful,' says Stephanie.

Minal, who is particularly interested in economics and politics, says the site connects young people from diverse groups around the world.

Ada Lee, a Year One journalism student from Baptist University of Hong Kong, is one of the few locals to join the website. The enthusiastic blogger says writing on the site can hone her journalistic skills.

'I have posted some of my feature writing there. Entries from other teenagers cover a lot of disciplines which inspire me to think more,' says Ada.

For more information, go to iCUBED.us