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Meet the young innovators tackling the cyberbullying problem

PRODUCED BY TELENOR

Some of us might assume that it’s a task for adults to find lasting solutions to the multitude of issues such as cyberbullying, fake news and problems faced by the LGBTQ+ community (gay, lesbian, bisexual, transsexual, transgender, queer) online.

Three passionate teenagers and their peers in Thailand, however, would tend to disagree. Instead of pointing fingers, Tonson, Pee and Grace are determined to use their first-hand knowledge and experience to curb the growing bullying epidemic, and they have some creative ideas for doing just that.

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Name: Trairat Harntaweesompone (Tonson)
Age: 17
Place: Bangkok, Thailand
Project duration: June - August 2020
Project: 3D Virtual gallery sharing practical and exciting knowledge to tackle cyberbullying.

The power of art

There was a time when Tonson (17) didn’t do anything when he saw other kids being bullied at school. Now he’s on a mission to stop cyberbullying with a project that can reach far beyond the classroom.

“I want to empower the victims of cyberbullying through art,” says Tonson, whose  ambition is to curate a 3D Virtual Gallery that immerses viewers in ‘practical and exciting knowledge’ of cyberbullying. 

The 17-year-old, who uses art as an intermediary in advocating against cyberbullying, points to an important factor in the nature of online discourse on bullying: it might be easier to bully someone online, behind your screen and filters,  in the same stride, perhaps it may also be easier to stand up against the bullies digitally.

“I personally find it harder to challenge someone when I meet them in real life compared with the digital space, but I also realised that speaking up online doesn’t only reach that one person you’re speaking to, it reaches many other people.” 

Tonson is especially engaged in tapping on the (sometimes hidden) power of those being bullied.  

“Victims of cyberbullying have to go through a lot and that builds up their resilience. I hope to build on that strength and encourage them to share their power with others,” he says.

Digital designers

Through their work on online safety with groups of young people in Thailand, it became clear to dtac that students have a potent sense of social responsibility and are intrinsically motivated to drive change and innovate solutions to societal problems. The paradigm shifted from seeing the young as purely vulnerable. Instead, they are seen as leaders.

Last year’s cybercamp was more tactile and physically collaborative than what was possible during COVID-19.

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This year, the Young Safe Internet Leader Cyber Camp was hosted virtually due to COVID-19 restrictions. Although it was challenging to shift the face-to-face training online, it soon became clear that tapping on digital technology could reach more people and attract more forward-thinking youth. More than 400 young people across Thailand signed up, motivated to design practical, fresh solutions against cyberbullying.

Ideas abounded, and everything from art to podcasts to board games and even chatbots were discussed as tools to reach the audience affected by cyberbullying. Eventually, 24 ideas secured funding and mentorship to further develop their concepts, among them, Tonson, Pee and Grace.

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A new study by researchers at Princeton and New York University has found that people over 65 years old were far more likely to share intentionally false or misleading information on Facebook. Pee (16), from Nonthaburi in Thailand, has first hand experience of the findings.

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Name: Teerapong Saekua (Pee)
Age:
16
Place:
Nonthaburi (Central region), Thailand
Project duration:
June - August 2020
Project:
Fake News Board game for Baby boomers

“When my dad shares fake news, I am the one who has to do the research, check if it is real and educate him.” 

With issues around the digital literacy gap spanning across generations, Pee’s concept is a timely one: a virtual board game targeting fake news. Aimed primarily at ‘baby boomers’ (broadly defined as those born between 1946 and 1964) the game’s ultimate goal is to equip players with the knowledge to better identify fake news online.

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Name: Praphasiri Wannawong (Grace)
Age: 16
Place: Nakornpatom (Central region), Thailand
Project duration: June - August 2020
Project: A podcast project focusing on the LGBTQ+ community, aimed at educating the Thai society on gender respect

From boardgames to podcasts, Grace (16)’s concept is anchored in an audio project focusing on the LGBTQ+ (gay, lesbian, bisexual, transsexual, transgender, queer) community. 

“When I was young, I went to an all-girls school where no one took issue with your orientation or gender identity,” Grace recalls. “Later on in high school, I realised that my friends were bullied for liking the same gender. I felt terrible and helpless about it. .” 

The shock of the realisation that close friends were suffering inspired Grace to launch a podcast series aimed at raising awareness of gender respect, and to stop cyberbullying. 

“When I told my friends at school, they all wanted to contribute and tell their stories. I hope whoever listens to the podcast will have a new and better attitude and that it can lead to less bullying, she says.”


Dtac’s Young Safe Internet Leader Cyber Camp

The Young Safe Internet Leader Camp is dtac’s online safety initiative aimed at engaging youths, teachers and other stakeholders and practitioners on child online safety. 

Now in its second edition, dtac has developed an online Learning Management System (LMS) to host the cyber camp in light of COVID-19 restrictions. This LMS is open to all students who have applied to join the camp.  Within the system, there are online courses segmented into three categories: Online Risk (mandatory), Digital Skills (elective), and Project Impact (elective). The course content is co-designed by dtac, its partners and respected trainers (including child psychologist Dr. Bajaporn Tantasuti), who have been roped in to review the content and language, ensuring it is suitable for secondary school students.

The initiative also features an incubation programme for 24 selected student teams who have proposed outstanding project ideas to combat online risks.  

Fast facts 

  • 405 applications received from students from 92 schools in 42 provinces across Thailand

  • 128 project ideas to reduce online risks for children including cyberbullying, fake news, sextortion in online gaming communities

  • 24 student teams with the most outstanding project ideas to receive a 3-month mentorship and funding to develop their concepts

Produced by Telenor

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