Online harassment of schoolkids as high as 70%: Survey

  • Responses from 14,000 schoolchildren who participated in CyberSAFE workshops
  • Majority also have misconceptions about what constitutes harassment, cyberbullying
Online harassment of schoolkids as high as 70%: Survey

CYBERBULLYING and online harassment experienced by schoolchildren in Malaysia is increasing, according to a survey conducted by DiGi Telecommunications Sdn Bhd and its CyberSAFE in Schools programme partners.
 
The nationwide survey on Internet safety and digital resilience of Malaysian schoolchildren found that as many as 26% of all schoolchildren reported that they had been bullied online, with children aged 13 to 15 being bullied the most.
 
The level of online harassment is reportedly high at above 70%, especially for calling other children mean names, posting improper messages and inappropriate photos.
 
A worrying average 64% of children feel that sending improper SMSes, posting inappropriate photos, and pretending to be someone else is not cyber-bullying, DiGi said in a statement after announcing the launch of the National Survey 2014: CyberSAFE in Schools report, themed Safety Net: Capacity Building Among Malaysian Schoolchildren on Staying Safe Online.
 
The 2014 CyberSAFE in Schools survey gathered responses of approximately 14,000 schoolchildren nationwide who participated in the CyberSAFE in Schools workshops over a period of nine months.
 
DiGi's CyberSAFE in Schools programme is a smart public-private partnership initiated by the Ministry of Education Malaysia, DiGi, CyberSecurity Malaysia and Childline Malaysia to create awareness and empower students and teachers with skills to stay safe on the Internet, and at the same time engage teachers and parents to help children learn about safe online practices.
 
Also speaking at the event was Lars Norling, DiGi’s Chief Executive Officer. He explained,
 
“We have moved beyond educating and creating awareness on Internet safety to leverage on our reach to schoolchildren nationwide to better understand the ways they interact online,” said DiGi chief executive officer Lars-Ake Norling.
 
“The data collated from the study has not only provided us with much needed statistics, but also valuable insights on the online behavioural patterns of young Malaysians today.
 
“The findings of this national study will help us tailor relevant programmes that not only equip the younger generation children with the right knowledge and skills, but also to inculcate good judgement and positive cyber conduct,” he said.
 
The survey, which examined several dimensions of Internet-related behavior – online safety, cyber-bullying, support networks and personal concerns – was tabulated and processed by Taylor Nelson Sofres Malaysia Sdn Bhd and analysed by education research experts Professor Kuldip Kaur and Professor Karunathan Chinna.
 
Respondents were required to respond to a list of questions, before and after the workshop.
 
Key findings
 
A few high risk factors have been identified from the survey:

  • 40% of the schoolchildren do not know how to protect themselves online;
  • 83% of schoolchildren are vulnerable to online risks due to minimal protective actions taken;
  • Two-thirds of younger schoolchildren (below 13 years old) take very low protective steps (zero to three) towards online safety. However, 52% of these schoolchildren still believe that they are safe online; and
  • An average 70% of schoolchildren are not concerned with the invasion of their privacy or the anonymity of the person they interact with.

The survey also dismissed a few common perceptions:

  • There is no indication that children from urban areas take a higher level of protective action as compared with those in rural areas; and
  • The level of awareness does not necessarily translate to positive action. More than 40% of children who said that online safety is important continue to exercise low levels of online protection.

In the areas of adult intervention:

  • 50% of children are unsupervised when online, with close to 40% claiming they are not bound by any rules on safety;
  • 61% of the children tend to turn to their family members when encountering negative online experiences;
  • Although there are 10 reporting-channel options, there are still 6% of schoolchildren who chose to remain silent; and
  • Families with computers in common areas of their home tend to exert more rules on cybersafety. However, this measure alone is insufficient, as an increasing number of children are accessing the internet on their mobile phones.
Online harassment of schoolkids as high as 70%: Survey

“The success of our National Broadband Initiatives has seen more Malaysians across the nation embracing the digital lifestyle and enjoying its benefits for both business and social purposes,” said Malaysian Communications and Multimedia Commission (MCMC) chairman Mohamed Sharil Tarmizi.
 
“Mindful of the increasing need to safeguard them, especially schoolchildren who are the most vulnerable to threats related to Internet use, MCMC has initiated the ‘Klik Dengan Bijak’ (click smartly) programme to support the Internet safety programme in 2012.
 
“These 2014 National Survey findings will complement and add value to the current knowledge base that we collated from the Annual Household Use of the Internet survey conducted by the MCMC since about a decade ago.
 
“Together, this data can be used to target Internet safety awareness and public education programmes that will further help us promote a sustainable civil society where online services will provide the basis of continuing enhancements to the quality of work and life,” he added.
 
Next steps
 
Findings from the survey have identified several approaches for consideration to improve capacity building in digital citizenship and ensuring a positive online experience for the children, DiGi said.
 
These include increasing public access to education on Internet safety to help build digital resilience, growing strong public and private support systems to assist children who have encountered negative experiences online, and capacity building for adults through strategic intervention by parents and teachers to resolve problematic online situations.
 
“Since its establishment in 2010, the CyberSAFE in Schools programme has extended its outreach activities to a total of 20,000 students in 2013 with 500 teachers being trained on cybersafety awareness, making it possible for them to then educate and guide schoolchildren on the challenges they face online,” said Dr Amirudin Abdul Wahab, chief executive officer of CyberSecurity Malaysia, an agency under the Ministry of Science, Technology and Innovation (MOSTI).
 
“This survey, which gathered critical information on habits and concerns of schoolchildren, parents’ involvement in their daily online lives, including their understanding of cyber-bullying, will help develop more effective cyber safety awareness programmes and strategies moving forward.
 
“We will also see more development, coordination and joint efforts in mitigating the risks online that our schoolchildren are exposed to,” he said.
 
For more information or to download the report, please visit http://www.safeinternet.my/.
 
Related Stories:
 
1-in-3 Malaysian kids victims of cyber-bullying: Microsoft survey
 
Cybersafety: Malaysian schoolkids know ‘why’ but not ‘how’
 
500mil kids going online in emerging Asia, need for more safety
 
Kids pulling the wool over parents’ eyes: Cyber-safety study
 
1 in 3 Singaporean teens have had a cyberbullying experience: McAfee
 
 
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