“A survey of young people aged 15 to 35 revealed yesterday that many of them, nearly seven in 10, have been on the receiving end of cyberbullying” (Move To Keep Gen Y-ired Safe, Mr. Kenny Chee).
The report “Move To Keep Gen Y-ired Safe” (February 18, 2011) by Mr. Kenny Chee presents positive developments undertaken by the Media Development Authority (MDA) to raise awareness on cyberbullying and cyberwellness, as well as the former’s corresponding ramifications. Given the proliferation of Internet activity and its accessibility, additional measures should be instituted to emphasise the importance of respectful and appropriate Web or social media usage. Even though the new initiative has introduced calls for the harmonisation of efforts between parents and institutions, the administration must be cognisant that addressing cyberbullying goes beyond mere awareness, and should include endeavours to reinforce the training of educators, the providence of proper counselling channels, interactive engagement of students et cetera.
Cyberbullying presents genuine challenges and dangers because they are often difficult to track, and victims themselves might not be aware of the nature of the malicious intents, or how to seek assistance whenever necessary. Detriments of cyberbullying are significant and extensive: their unchecked propagation can be psychologically-draining for students on the receiving end, the veiled attacks can be immensely personal and hateful, and victims might lose focus on school and life in general given the relentless barrage of assorted insinuations.
School-based solutions must be conceptualised on a case-by-case basis, targeted specifically based on the target audience’s age-groups, web navigation or comprehension abilities, so on and so forth. Hands-on approaches can be catered to younger children – with more interesting material and innovative education pedagogies – to capture their attentions and maintain interest so as to share information about cyberwellness, and how they can learn to be responsible Internet contributor-users. Knowledge can be transferred in a more straightforward manner given their relatively younger age and comparative receptivity. When it comes to older students, schools and their teachers must be careful not to resort to pedantic and antiquated methodologies, expecting to feed their students with page after page of notes to inculcate the values of cyberwellness.
On the contrary, they should be engaged in honest and open dialogues or discussions to share their personal or collective online boundaries, and gradually allow them to contemplate how they manage their usage and actions on the World Wide Web (WWW). This would make them cognisant of Internet responsibilities and self-regulation. Forcing ideals and expectations per se would yield no tangible results; students would simply be turned off and lose attention.
Messages would also fall on deaf ears if the educators dispensing the advice are not properly trained to adjust their methods based on the nature of their students. MDA could consider working more closely with the Ministry of Education (MOE) and the National Institute of Education (NIE) to complement the existing campaign with developmental programmes targeted at training teachers how to expound on the values of cyberwellness. Focus group discussions would be great for trainee teachers to understand the concerns and perils of cyberbullying, and to raise its profile and awareness. Simultaneously, it is imperative for the introduction or promotion of help-lines or counselling avenues, so that parents and children know where to go when help or advice is desired.
A version of this article was published in My Paper.