Safe Internet research spotlights student experiences with cyberbullying and online peer pressure

On Safer Internet Day 2016, Telenor Group reveals that studies conducted in Thailand, Malaysia and Bangladesh demonstrate the importance of understanding the online behavior of students.

Published: 9 February 2016 01:00

Final Asia SafeInternetforSchoolChild

(Bangkok) 9 February 2016 – The growth of internet access across Asia is bringing a wealth of new opportunities to youth in the region, particularly around the access to educational content. Yet, the new access comes hand-in-hand with the challenge of keeping children safe on the internet and importance of protecting them from online threats. To better understand online behaviors, Telenor Group today released the results of its Safe Internet study, which examined internet safety knowledge among students across three of its markets in the region: Bangladesh, Thailand and Malaysia.

School students between the ages of 12 – 18 years were interviewed in each of the markets, with respondents concentrated in key cities. The study covered 1,510 pupils in Bangladesh, 1,896 pupils in Malaysia and 1,336 pupils in Thailand.

“As a leader in mobile telecommunications, Telenor is dedicated to increasing internet safety for all, with a particular emphasis on youth,” said Ola Jo Tandre, Head of Social Responsibility, Telenor Group. “Telenor hopes the findings from these country-specific studies will emphasize the importance of positive parent and teacher guidance for young students using the internet, as well as to inspire increased digital resilience through regular conversations and advice to their children.”

Telenor’s Safe Internet study analyzed school pupil’s responses to various internet-related threats, such as cyberbullying and peer pressure, in order to understand the factors influencing behavior patterns and to develop solutions towards making the web a safer environment.

Peer pressure

With regular access to social networks, children are becoming more exposed to peer pressures, such as being encouraged to visit unsuitable websites or use bad language online. Amongst the students surveyed, 49% of pupils in Bangladesh said they succumbed to at least one form of peer pressure, in comparison to a lesser 39% of Malaysian students and only 35% of Thai students.

Cyberbullying

The study also reviewed the state of cyberbullying, one of the more heavily discussed topics and often one of the biggest concerns for parents in regards to children accessing the internet. The study findings proved that among the three countries surveyed, 49% of school students in Bangladesh have experienced either ‘being bullied or disturbed online’ or ‘being bullied by the same person both online and offline’ or they have actually engaged in the act of bullying others online per the anonymity of the internet. In contrast, 37% of Malaysian and 33% of Thai students had encountered, or been involved with cyberbullying.

Many youth’s do not understand the serious effect online words may have on a peer. In fact, a 2014 study in Malaysia revealed two-thirds of children feel that sending offensive SMS-es, pretending to be someone else online or posting inappropriate photos does not qualify as cyberbullying. In 2009, Telenor Norway created a national program, designed to teach children, teachers and parents how to prevent cyberbullying. The program helped prove education is key to reducing cyberbullying, as three out of every four children who took part in the initiative stated they were now equipped with the knowledge to avoid bullying online.

Dealing with a negative experience

With the students encountering cyberbullying and online peer pressure relatively frequently, they were then asked about their ability to tackle these negative experiences. All three countries scored similarly, with the majority of students saying that they felt capable of resolving such issues, whether alone or by consulting parents and teachers (ranging from 67% in Malaysia to 59% in Thailand).

Although the difference is small, students in Malaysia were best equipped to deal with negative experiences online. This could be due to consistent efforts to increase internet safety awareness among school pupils, including DiGi’s CyberSAFE programme.

Lesser risks

In terms of the new risks associated with access to the internet, including websites promoting drugs, weapons, self-harm, suicide and hate, all three countries were in general consensus that these pose little threat. Most students indicated that they avoid these types of sites.

The study also revealed that over half of the pupils in all three countries (70% in Malaysia, 67% in Thailand and 61% in Bangladesh) stated that they would not send explicit messages, also known as ‘sexting’.

Help from parents and schools

This inaugural region-wide study also demonstrated that school students in all three countries tend to confide in parents and teachers when faced with online issues that they do not know how to solve alone. Pupils in Thailand and Malaysia tend to take a more direct approach, with 55% of the surveyed pupils in Thailand likely to approach their parents and 47% in Malaysia. This is in comparison to Bangladesh, where only 38% of pupils said they would consult with their parents. By frequently consulting with parents, students can better navigate the challenges of interactions online. This is likely a key factor in the cautious approach taken by Thai and Malaysian students in regards to peer pressure and cyberbullying.

It is important for parents to create an open dialogue with their children and ensure they feel comfortable to seek help from their parents should they encounter inappropriate online behavior. Whilst making children aware of the ways in which the internet can be misused, parents have the opportunity to equally discuss the benefits of the internet with their children, such as networking, education and entertainment.

“Since both teachers and parents play an important role in supporting students to use the internet safely, closer collaboration between schools and families can lead to a more holistic approach. Although the study findings suggest students in the region generally behave well online, schools and parents should continue to monitor internet usage and educate students on how to behave in the ever-evolving cyber world,” added Tandre.

For more information on how we can make the internet a safer environment for children, Telenor Group provides a Parent Guide: How to talk to your children about the internet.

Study snapshots

v2 Bangladesh SafeInternetforSchoolChild

v2 Malaysia SafeInternetforSchoolChild (1)

v2 Thailand SafeInternetforSchoolChild

Media contact: Marcus Adaktusson, Tel: +65 9879 5730, E-mail: Marcus.adaktusson@telenor.com