Tackle cyber-bullying before it gets worse here

Tackle cyber-bullying before it gets worse here

With the growing concerns over harassment online and offline, Singapore is drafting new laws to curb this problem, Law Minister K. Shanmugam announced last month.

He cited a 2012 Microsoft survey that showed that Singapore had the second-highest rate of online bullying among children aged eight to 17.

China topped the list of 25 countries polled.

But besides the force of the law, more can be done to empower the youth to speak up against cyber-bullying, which includes spreading rumours and posting nasty or threatening messages and embarrassing pictures of the victim online.

One way is to raise awareness of its consequences and to encourage teens themselves to stand up for the victims, overseas research has pointed out.

Young people are "not generally deterred by overly punitive policies or the threat of arrest", according to a paper on social influences on cyber-bullying behaviours among teens published this year.

Rather, informal social controls, such as peer influence, are found to be more influential in curbing deviant behaviour among the youth, said the directors of the Cyber-bullying Research Centre in America, Dr Sameer Hinduja and Dr Justin W. Patchin.

Both men have researched cyber-bullying extensively. In 2010, they surveyed about 4,500 American students and found that:

- Those who said their friends were cyber-bullies were much more likely to bully others online too.

- Students who felt their parents and schools were not dismissive of cyber-bullying and would punish them for such behaviour were less likely to do so. Therefore, the researchers said parents and schools have to make it clear to their children and students that bullying will not be tolerated and bullies will be taken to task.

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