By Sia Ling Xin
|Click on thumbnail to view
A NINE-YEAR-OLD girl started playing games like Under Cover, where the player snaps upskirt photographs of women, after her friend sent her a link to the website which hosted them.
Such free online games that mask sexual content have been an "in thing" among her friends for about three months, because they found playing such games exciting, the girl said.
She said she knows that the behaviour portrayed in the games is unacceptable. She would not behave that way, or want to be on the receiving end of such actions, in reality.
But she felt that playing the games was harmless as their characters are "fake, like cartoons, and do not have feelings".
Her alarmed accountant mother, 38, said: "It's shocking, I didn't know my child could play such games online."
The average parent is unaware of such potential risks in free online games, said Mr Poh Yeang Cherng, 41, manager of Touch Cyber Wellness & Sports, a cyber-wellness education programme for youth run by Touch Community Services.
The programme does not track the number of children playing such games online.
But its informal poll showed that up to 40 per cent of lower- secondary school students have played Grand Theft Auto 4, even though it is a violent video game with sexual content that has been rated "mature-18".
Such games are harder for children to access than free online games, as they can be bought only by those aged above 18.
Ms Yuvarani Thangavelu, the Media Development Authority's (MDA) deputy director for licensing policy, said that it has taken initiatives to safeguard the young from harmful online content, but these have limitations, given the Internet's borderless nature.
Parents can subscribe to a service that filters out undesirable materials, which is provided by Internet service providers SingTel, StarHub and PacNet, with help from the MDA.
But such content in games cannot be detected easily by the filters as it is embedded, a StarHub spokesman said.
Parents can also adjust settings on the Internet browers or install client-based filtering software to block specific websites.
But probably the best precaution they can take is to be more aware of their children's online activities and to communicate openly, said the National Institute of Education's Associate Professor Angeline Khoo, who developed Internet safety materials for parents.
The nine-year-old girl has since stopped playing the games, after her mother told her why they were inappropriate and began monitoring her online activities more closely.
Netizen's warning: beware of the Jurong Point Pervert
Netizens say that man was often found taking upskirt picture of women at Jurong point.
'Upskirt' filming cases on the rise
Psychiatrists think a main motivation for these digital-age voyeurs is the sexual thrill they get from the act.
Escalator ride that turned traumatic
Hawker caught taking upskirt photo of woman while they were riding on escalator at shopping mall.
Caught with his 'pen' on
Woman in taxi noticed that the driver was secretly filming her with a spy camera disguised to look like a pen.
He had 500 offensive photos in his phone
Woman caught him taking pictures of her chest, and later found offensive pictures in his phone.
For more my paper stories click here.