Protecting Children Against Cyber Bullying

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With the number of cyber bullying cases on the rise in Malaysia, DiGi Telecommunications and Telenor launched its CyberSAFE program in schools to nurture more ‘Adab’ for digital citizens.

As Malaysia moves toward its goal of becoming a fully developed nation by 2020, the number of Internet users has exploded—from only about 3.7 million in 2000 to almost 25 million in 2016. Nearly 70 percent of households now have high-speed Internet, with a target to reach 95% of populated areas by 2020 under the 11th Malaysian Plan.

School-aged children are among the fastest growing group of digital users; nearly 70 percent of children with Internet access at home spend an average of eight hours a week on the Internet, mostly on social networks, according to the Internet Users Survey 2014 conducted by the Malaysian Communications and Multimedia Commission.

While the growth of Internet use has brought Malaysians all the benefits of the digital age—from increased business and educational opportunities to unprecedented engagement and civic influence—it’s also left children particularly vulnerable to Internet-related bullying, fraud, and abuse. And as more children gain access to the benefits of the Internet, their exposure to online risks have also escalated.

As many as 26 percent of all children reported being bullied online, while those ages 13 to 15 are most victimized. More than 70 percent of children report experiencing online harassment, which includes name-calling and posting improper messages and photos, according to a 2014 survey conducted by Digi Telecommunications and its CyberSAFE in Schools programme partners.

Equally worrying: the vast majority of children have taken few protective steps, either because they don’t think it’s necessary, or because they don’t know how. Many believe they are safe online but yet, they are not concerned with the invasion of privacy or the anonymity of those they interact with.

In response to this growing problem, CyberSAFE in Schools—a program run by Digi, Telenor’s subsidiary in Malaysia, the Ministry of Education and CyberSecurity Malaysia—empowers children to use the Internet safely.

Aaron Mokhtar, who developed the content for CyberSAFE’s School outreach, spends more than 200 hours a year giving awareness talks and training teachers to be CyberSAFE ambassadors. He is a strong advocate of the “Adab of a digital citizen” (Adab means manners in Malay), a concept he has developed while at CyberSecurity Malaysia.

Cyber-bullying Stats
• An average of 50% of children admitted to experiencing problematic situations online.
• 39% said they have been bullied online and 35% says the same person who bullies them online also bullies them offline (eg. in school).
• 44% of children have received hate mail or nasty messages while 47% says they have friends who use vulgar language online.
• 38% children says they do negative things online because of peer pressure.
• 30% of children claim they bully others online because they believe they have anonymity.
• 47% of children responded that if they are bullied online, they will just stay quiet and hope it will stop.
• However, near to 80% of children believe their parents will help them, or that they will help their siblings if they are bullied on the internet.
• Near to 80% will also react to negative experiences by changing their privacy settings or blocking the person.

“The internet is a doorway straight to a child’s room,” Mokhtar said. “Without protection, a child is exposed to anything. Many parents are intimidated by the Internet, however, and feel powerless to safeguard their children.” A parent once told Mokhtar that without a degree in computer science, he was unable to supervise his child online. Mokhtar challenges this misconception, explaining that teaching a child cyber-security is like teaching him or her everyday safety—such as looking left and right before crossing the road, or not talking to strangers. When it comes to Internet use, parents should impart certain basic rules such as always checking the sender before opening an email.

When Mokhtar speaks to children, he focuses on building positive habits and attitudes, not just knowledge. “I tell kids we have to be mindful of what we say, do and share online.” Many kids don’t realize that when they think they are having fun, sometimes they are actually cyber-bullying.

• Secure your gadget and connection
• Secure your personal data
• Be careful of what you say and do
• Know how to take action or report incidences

Watching students change their perspective and their behaviour is part of what makes Mokhtar’s job worthwhile.

“It’s very satisfying to see kids come to my class acting cool and not knowing anything,” Mokhtar said, “then walking out wanting to know more and taking control of their online presence.”

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