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  • Writer's pictureJoanne Chang

How can you help your child navigate the online world responsibly?

Updated: May 14, 2021

by Joanne Chang (Founder of Owl Academy)

Children nowadays often spend a staggering amount of time online. The adults in their lives cannot possibly monitor their use of digital devices every waking second, so how do we ensure that they won't land themselves in trouble or end up hurting others through thoughtless words and behaviour?

In 2017, we witnessed a case that exemplified the perils of online misbehaviour when Harvard University rescinded admission offers to 10 students who participated in a highly offensive Facebook group. In 2019, there was a sense of déjà vu when Harvard revoked another admission offer over racist statements made on social media. While these would evidently be personal tragedies for the students affected, far worse are cases of cyberbullying that culminate in suicide.

A Pew Research Center survey conducted in 2018 found that the majority of teens have been bullied or harassed online. Bullying has long been a bane of childhood but with the advent of social media and digital devices, the frequency and prevalence have grown exponentially. The anonymity afforded by online platforms emboldens users to express harmful sentiments they otherwise would not. The top two forms of cyberbullying amongst teens is offensive name-calling and the spreading of false rumours. In recent years, there has been an increase in cases where this harassment has ended in the needless loss of a young life to suicide.

Is cyberbullying a problem in Singapore? Yes, unfortunately, it is.

Watch this video to know the relevant statistics. At the end of the video, you will discover sources of help.

How can adults help?

Parents and teachers can teach children and teenagers what constitutes desirable online behaviour. Far more effective than just talking about it is to model the behaviour we want the young to emulate. We need to walk the walk.

Ultimately, the goal of parents and teachers should be to engineer our own redundancy. Children and teenagers being able to make wise decisions consciously and independently is the best evidence of our success in nurturing them to eventually become responsible adults. We certainly need many more of those these days.

What social networking etiquette should I be teaching my teenage child?

You can learn some great tips here. The list includes helpful online safety tips as well. I find number 11 ("Don't make up silly email addresses.") highly practical. The example I always share with my students is an email I received almost a decade ago from a certain "bufflord". That is not the full username but I shall not divulge more details out of respect for my ex-student's privacy. I encouraged him to change it to make a better impression on his prospective employers. Fortunately, he took my advice.

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