By Cassandra Chew
Psst, want to see something? It is porn.
The person making the offer? A teenager.
Indeed, more teens are downloading smut to their cellphones, thanks to easier and cheaper Internet access.
Mr Yusof Ismail, executive director of voluntary welfare group Ain Society, has heard of up to 120 such cases in the last five years. There have been 15 cases so far this year.
At the Singapore Children's Society, three teens are being counselled for such acts, as are two at Andrew and Grace Home.
The teens usually watch videos streamed online or downloaded to their cellphones.
A Sunday Times check with 15 teens who surf on their phones showed at least seven have visited porn sites, and two have watched or tried accessing content.
Mr Poh Yeang Cherng, manager of Touch Cyber Wellness and Sports, estimated that the number of young people surfing for porn on cellphones could be higher than those doing so via personal computers.
The mobile platform is 'subject to less control and moderation'.
Most teens surveyed use their phones to log on to social network site Facebook and video-sharing platform YouTube, as well as to check e-mail and movie screening times.
Those with porn had either downloaded videos onto their PCs for transfer to the phones, got them from friends via Bluetooth, or streamed the content directly from a website.
Mr Yusof noted that most teens do so not out of an addiction to sex but for the thrill of accessing restricted content and 'showing off' to friends.
Still, experts are concerned that the obstacles preventing access to explicit content are being eroded.
Gone are the days of pricey mobile phone surfing.
Most teens subscribe to student plans with the telcos - prices range from $25.68 to $82.93 monthly - which give free broadband access for a certain time.
In addition, Wi-Fi-enabled phones, such as the iPhone or Nokia E71, allow users to log on to any wireless network. And with the growing reach of free network Wireless@SG, surfing is within just about anyone's reach.
But unlike home-based Internet services where content filters are available for the PC, none of the three telcos here offers mobile-content filters.
A check with the three Wireless@SG service providers also shows no such filter is available for mobile phones.
Whereas teens who surf at home may be monitored by parents or restricted by content filters, mobile phones 'can be used anywhere with a high degree of privacy', said Touch's Mr Poh.
A check with 10 parents showed most are aware of the risks but only half are calling for mobile-content filters.
Said Madam Janet Yeong, 52, a senior technology manager and parent of a 13-year-old boy: 'Telcos have a great responsibility to help eradicate porn, but I believe parents should set an example for their children. Then, they will follow suit.'
Indeed, Internet filters have limitations.
On Sept 8, Mr Eric Tan, deputy director of community and market development at the Media Development Authority, explained in The Straits Times Forum page that it is 'not practical to block all objectionable websites given the borderless and dynamic nature of the Internet'.
SingTel spokesman Chia Boon Chong noted it is not economically feasible to provide filters for individual users.
The call is for public education on responsible use of the Internet, including cyber-wellness programmes in schools.
Mr Boo Hian Kok, principal of Beatty Secondary School, said: 'We can't carry out spot checks to see what students have on their phones. The important thing is education; to teach kids to make good choices based on good values and a strong moral compass.'
This article was first published in The Straits Times.