Interview with Chong Ee Jay and David Freer on protection against Cyberbullying for Singapore Youth

McAfee, part of Intel Security, has recently released the Singapore findings from their 2014 Teens and the Screen study: Exploring Online Privacy, Social Networking and Cyberbullying 

Some notable results from the survey include:

  • 1 in 3 Singapore teens have had experience with cyber bullying (victimised, instigated, witnessed)
  • Nearly half (44%) of teens feel more accepted on social media than in person
  • 4 in 5 have posted or done something risky online, which includes posting their phone number (45%) and home address (34%)
  • Alarmingly, half (51%) believe they can eventually delete any content they choose to share
  • When it comes to parental supervision, 2 out of 3 teens change their online behavior if they knew their parents were watching.
  • In fact, 9 in 10 teens have purposely taken action to hide their online behavior from their parents.

Through this survey, it is a worrying fact that increasing number of Singapore youths are being exposed to cyberbullying and as parents, we are deeply concerned about it. Are our children aware of the dangers to their privacy and security whenever they are online? How can they protect themselves? Other issues like how far do teens in Singapore let their parents in on what they do online? How far do they go to avoid their parents’ monitoring? It will be useful for parents to know what they can do to help protect their child. 

Our Parenting World is very honored to have Chong Ee Jay and David Freer to provide valuable insights on the topic of Cyberbullying and provide advises on how to protect our child from cyberbullies. 

Chong Ee Jay - Assistant Manager, TOUCH Cyber Wellness

 Mr Chong Ee Jay is the Assistant Manager of TOUCH Cyber Wellness (TCW), a service of TOUCH Youth. He is the key driver behind the cyber wellness efforts in TOUCH Cyber Wellness, championing public education programmes both locally (through schools and national level efforts) and internationally, as well as counselling intervention and youth mentoring works through their Cyber Wellness Centre in Bukit Merah and Hougang respectively. He is a highly sought after trainer and a mentor for the youths who come to the PlanetCRuSH Cyber Wellness Center through the resident programmes.

Driven with a passion to inspire parents and educators whom struggle to cope with the rapidly advancing Internet age, he works closely with them to educate and equip them with knowledge and skill sets to connect with their children and students.

1.    How do parents identify if their child is being cyberbullied?

Mr Chong Ee Jay (TOUCH)

A child may be a victim of cyber bullying if he or she:

  • Unexpectedly stops using the computer
  • Appears nervous or jumpy when an instant message, text message, or email appears
  • Appears uneasy about going to school or outside in general
  • Appears to be angry, depressed, or frustrated after using the computer
  • Avoids discussions about what they are doing on the computer
  • Becomes abnormally withdrawn from usual friends and family members

 2.    What are the effects of cyberbullying on the affected child?

Mr Chong Ee Jay (TOUCH)

Just because bullying takes place in the virtual world, it does not mean that children will not be emotionally or psychologically affected by it. Cyber bullying can hurt them as much as offline bullying, and sometimes even more.

Listed below are some signs and consequences of cyber bullying that can negatively affect a child.

  1. Avoidance of technology Similar to how children will stay away from the playground where they were bullied, they may start avoiding the use of technology altogether if they were bullied online. In severe cases, children may even develop technophobia which could hold them back from progressing in this technological world.
  1. Loneliness and isolation Cyber bullying which initially started out with only one bully can snowball into a case which involves multiple perpetrators. Sometimes, even close friends may turn against each other, leaving them with feelings of loneliness and isolation. Especially when they are at the development stages of their lives, being excluded can be extremely painful for them.  Often, having no friends can invite more bullying as well, thus adding to their suffering.
  1. Avoidance of school Bullying that takes place online may translate into bullying that occurs offline as well. Victims of cyber bullying may choose to play truant to avoid face-to-face contact with the kids that bullied them online. It can also be due to the embarrassment and humiliation they were subjected to online that deter them from school. Some children may even find that school has become overwhelmingly distressing for them and decide to drop out altogether.
  1. Poor academic performance Like most bullying cases, cyber bullying victims often dread going to school and their school work and grades may suffer. Their constant fear of vulnerability also puts them in a state of paranoia and anxiety that takes their attention away from the lessons taught in class.
  1. Physical health problems Cyber bullied victims may experience stress that can lead to a loss in their appetites or binge eating to drown out the anxiety. They may suffer from insomnia and nightmares or just sleep more than usual to escape from reality. All these can lead to serious health problems.
  1. Depression Studies have shown that children who have been bullied are prone to slipping into depression because their self-esteem and self-confidence have been damaged. The lower the self-esteem and self-confidence, the more they will be bullied because bullies tend to pick on kids who will react to their hurtful antics. Sometimes, such psychological problems can even persist into adulthood.
  1. Suicidal thoughts & suicide attempts Sadly, cyber bullying does bring about the risk of suicide among children and there have been many of such cases reported over the years. Especially when cyber bullying can now take place at any time and any place, children being tormented 24/7 will find it all too much to take. Consequently, they may start to believe that taking their own lives is the only way to escape from their bullies and pain.
  1. Becoming cyber bullies themselves When bullied, anger and vengeance can build up within your children. To relieve the pain and hurt they have gone through, some victims may choose to become cyber bullies themselves – to take revenge on those who have tormented them or just vent their anger on another innocent person.

Cyber bullying poses many different consequences that can cause problems for both the children and parents. If these problems are left unattended, there is a possibility that they could spiral into something more serious. Therefore, before it is too late, seek help if they are being cyber bullied.

David Freer - VP Consumer - APAC McAfee

David Freer is the Vice President, Consumer – Asia Pacific McAfee. Part of Intel Security. He is responsible for leading and developing McAfee’s Consumer business in the Asia Pacific region. Freer has worked across a number of industries for over 30 years and has more than 21 years of experience in the IT industry. He has served in a range of general management roles in leading US and Japanese technology APAC-based companies.

 3.    What can parents do to protect and empower their child to deal with cyberbullies effectively?

Mr David Freer (McAfee)

Essentially, parents can make sure that their children can depend on them for support and comfort while teaching them what steps to take to avoid or deal with such incidents. The following are some of the ways they can do so:

  • Parents can make the effort to casually talk to their children about the risks of being online and to let them know that they can openly discuss such topics with you.
  • Teach them not to readily befriend or chat with people they are not familiar with in real life and to maintain privacy and propriety as they interact with others so as not to encourage harassment.
  • Teach them not to reply to bullies and save evidence of the attacks through screenshots instead.
  • Inform them that they can report such incidents on the online platform or the authorities depending on the seriousness of the bullying.
  • If necessary, you can encourage them to take a break from online activities or change their user profile and passwords.

 4.    In your opinion, where can parents turn to for help on the topic of cyberbullying?

Mr David Freer (McAfee)

If parents find out that their child is being bullied online and want to report the incident, they can do so in a number of ways:

  1. If the incident occurred on social media platform, then report the incident directly with the site.
  2. They can also discuss such matters with their child’s school counsellor especially if the instigator is a fellow student.
  3. If the child is subjected to threats and intimidation or even sexual exploitation, they may have to refer the matter to the police.

 5.    What measures can parents do to monitor their child without making their child feels that their privacy is being intruded?

Mr David Freer (McAfee)

With the survey revealing that nine in 10 Singaporean teens have taken specific actions to hide their online behaviour from their parents, parents have to find the right balance when making sure that their child stays protected online. It’s important to stay calm to ensure the child doesn’t hide their online actions from you.

In terms of monitoring, parents can make use of filters and parental controls in their family devices such as safe web searching, risky site alerts, identity protection and time limitations.

Actively educating children and keeping an open line of communication with them can also complement such measures. For example, parents can use the news to start conversations about online safety to illustrate to their children that there are others who deal with cyber bullying and it is something parents are willing to discuss so that they can be comfortable in approaching their parents should they find themselves in such a situation.

Thank you Chong Ee Jay and David Freer for taking our interview!

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