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As a teen, growing up can be fun yet daunting with all the changes going on in our lives. Through this transitional journey from teenage to adulthood, we’ll begin to learn more about ourselves, discover our passions and find our identity.At times, we may look to what our friends or favourite personalities share online to take as inspiration, but this very connectedness may also expose us to undesirable content which can be harmful to our well-being.It’s therefore important that we learn how to better navigate cyberspace and ensure that it is a safe space for everyone.
Cyber wellness is the well-being of internet users as we navigate cyberspace. It focuses on equipping netizens like us with the knowledge and skills for positive purposes and to maintain a safe and positive presence in cyberspace. It also seeks to shape us as responsible users of the internet.
Cyber wellness is important as it helps us learn about the watch-outs, the risks and how to keep ourselves safe in cyberspace. Click the cards below to find out more.
Netiquette is a set of rules on how we can display courtesy when interacting with others online. These rules are fairly similar to what’s being used offline.Having netiquette helps us create a positive online environment by allowing us to express what we want to say clearly, making misunderstandings and miscommunication less likely.The way we express ourselves online often differs from the way we express ourselves in the offline world. The use of abbreviations and emojis to communicate, along with the lack of face-to-face interaction, may result in misinterpretation of what the other party meant.Here are some tips to practise netiquette:
Cyberspace allows us to easily access large amounts of information and increase our general knowledge. We are also exposed to content that can be dubious, inappropriate (e.g. breaking the law), or harmful (e.g. hurting ourselves and/or others).
When encountering inappropriate content, here are some things we can do:
Report any inappropriate content to the various media platform providers. Social media platform providers like Instagram, TikTok and Facebook can immediately remove that piece of content from our feed.
Close the browser or the browsing tab immediately so that we can stop viewing any of the inappropriate content.
Reach out to a close friend or a trusted adult to tell them what we saw and how we feel after viewing it. Describe our emotions using the Emotions Explorer.Discuss with them about the steps that we can take if we encounter such content again, e.g. enabling safe search functions on our browser.
Misinformation can confuse us and make it difficult for us to discern what is factual from what is false. An example was how radiation from 5G reportedly causes COVID-19.Be sceptical, not cynicalWhen consuming information online, we should remain sceptical of the claims made, and to only be convinced when they are backed by reliable evidence. However, we should refrain from being too cynical such that we distrust all information, even those with evidence.
The acronym S.U.R.E summarises the 4 steps to help us handle online information better:
Click on the SURE buttons below to learn more.
Cyberspace is highly engaging but we can find ourselves spending too many hours on it. Taking care of our cyber wellness includes balancing our online activities with other aspects of our daily lives.One way to know if we are leading balanced lives is by looking at the amount of time we spend online. Additionally, the time spent online should be viewed in context. For example, a computer programming student would likely spend more time online than the average student.To check if the time spent online is balanced, assess whether it is affecting these four areas of our lives:
We might miss out on school or work just to spend time online, e.g. on games or social media.
We might become restless, irritable, or anxious when we cannot use our devices.
We might be sleeping less because we stay up late to use our devices.
We might choose to spend less time with friends and family in exchange for spending time online. We may be preoccupied with thoughts and anticipation of being online, e.g. gaming. Or we might even be lying to the people around us about how much time we’ve spent on gaming or surfing the internet.
If we do find ourselves having trouble balancing our commitments, or having repeated yet unsuccessful efforts to control, cut back, or stop our gaming or online activities, here are some tips that may help:
Set a timer or schedule to keep track of the time spent online.
Bring more 'we time' to your online life. We can turn our online activities into a social event, playing online games together instead of alone.
Share with a close friend or a trusted adult about our challenges in cutting down on our screen time and discuss practical steps we can take, e.g. a family member may help us monitor our online time, or a buddy could schedule offline activities with us, such as going cycling or playing basketball together.
Turn off our devices to reconnect physically with friends and people we care about. Switching off during mealtimes, and at social and family gatherings, allow us to provide them with our full attention, without being distracted.
Who are cyber contacts?Cyber contacts are the people we interact with online. They include both friends we have made offline, and strangers we meet online. When our cyber contacts are strangers, we may wish to be mindful of how we interact with them.Bear in mind the possibility that online strangers may not be who they make themselves out to be, as they can mask themselves behind the screen, portraying themselves in untruthful ways, e.g. by displaying pictures that do not belong to them. They could be dangerous and may harbour bad intentions such as extortion, scams or even online grooming.
Typical risks of having an online presence:
With the prevalence of social media, talking to strangers online has become extremely common...
When we communicate online with strangers, we put ourselves at risk...
Tips when interacting with cyber contacts
Here are some pointers to bear in mind when interacting with cyber contacts:
Stay alert when chatting online and refrain from disclosing personal information or sending personal photos. Ensure that privacy settings allow only those whom we know and trust to access our data.
If the interactions become uncomfortable, cut off contact immediately by blocking the person.
Scams are on the rise in Singapore. Learn more about how you can stay one step ahead of scammers. Read the Ministry of Home Affairs’ survival guide to scams here. Or visit the National Crime Prevention Council’s ScamAlert for tips on how to spot common scams.
If we know that our close friend or the people we care about are getting too close to a cyber contact that might be untrustworthy, remind them about the dangers of online strangers.Observe if they are putting themselves at risk. If necessary, seek assistance from others to intervene, e.g. a teacher, school counsellor, parents, other family members, etc.
The influence of peer pressure and social media can be harmful to us. Read on for tips on how to minimise the negative effects of peer pressure and social media influence.
Peer pressure is real and exerts a powerful influence over us, not just offline but online as well. We may feel pressured to dress or behave in a certain way and we may find ourselves giving in because we want to be liked, to fit in, or to be respected by our peers.While peer pressure can serve us well if we are surrounded by those who inspire us to engage in meaningful or healthy activities, there are also instances that they can have negative influences.
Through social media, we might see our friends or influencers posting online about their risky behaviours, such as drinking, fighting, or smoking. This might make us curious to also experiment on these behaviours.When we don’t participate, we might fear that we are missing out (FOMO) on something, or feel uncool.
Here are some ways to help us resist peer pressure and social media influence:
Saying ‘no’ helps establish our boundaries. Practise saying “no” if we are asked to do something that makes us feel uncomfortable. This can help us stay firm in our decision, even when we feel tempted or pressurised to do so.
Saying ‘no’ helps establish our boundaries. Practise saying “no” if we are asked to do...
We are in control of what we see on our social media platforms. If there are things that make us uncomfortable, we can simply stop following the account and/or click on the options of the respective platform to hide the posts and videos.
We are in control of what we see on our social media platforms. If there are things that make...
Take a moment to imagine what the consequences may be if we get involved in things we feel uncomfortable with. If the potential outcomes are not something that we would like, it is a sign that the action we had intended to take might not be a good idea.
Take a moment to imagine what the consequences may be if we get involved in things we…
Uninstalling social media apps from our smartphone will remove our urge to constantly check for updates. Additionally, we can control the time we spend on social media.We could start with small steps by deleting apps that are unnecessary and only keep those that are needed for daily use. We could also consider a digital detox, such as muting app notifications, turning off some social media apps, or switching off our digital devices, for set periods of time or on certain days of the week.
Uninstalling social media apps from our smartphone will remove our urge to constantly check for updates…
Cyberbullying, or online harassment, can adversely affect our cyber wellness. It occurs when people use technology to intentionally hurt someone in cyberspace.Common experienceCyberbullying is a common experience of many people. It can happen to anyone.Effects of cyberbullyingThe effects of cyberbullying can be detrimental. Among adolescents, victims of cyberbullying might find their mental health deteriorate, have more suicidal thoughts, or engage in self-harming behaviours.
Cyberbullying can come in many forms. Here are some examples:
Spreading rumours or untruth statements that can hurt a person’s reputation.
Fooling someone into sharing their personal information which is then posted online without their permission.
Using online platforms to harass or stalk a person.
Ruining a person’s reputation by posting offensive or aggressive messages under the person’s name.
Continually sending vicious, or disturbing messages to a person.
Sending messages that aim to provoke an online argument.
Intentionally excluding someone from an online group.
Revealing an individual’s or organisation’s private information through the Internet.
As cyberbullying is common and can easily happen to anyone, it is important to know how to deal with it:
Do this when we encounter something that makes us feel uncomfortable, fearful, or hurt.
Cyberbullies love the attention they get. The more we react, the more likely for them to continue bothering us. It’s best to disregard their hurtful comments and not to engage with them.If the cyberbully is sending hurtful texts or posting insulting or hateful things online, block all lines of communication with the person. We can also update our privacy settings to restrict certain people from viewing our content.
Sometimes, blocking the cyberbully might not work as they can continue posting abusive things about us. If things get out of hand and the bully doesn’t go away, keep all offensive and abusive emails, comments, and text messages in a folder — complete with dates and times — so that if their identities are uncovered, these can act as proof of their behaviour.
If we feel that the cyberbullying is getting out of hand, we should reach out to a trusted adult or friend. If we feel emotionally distressed, seek professional help immediately.
Report cyberbullies to the appropriate authorities, including parents or teachers. If our personal safety is being threatened or reputation is being damaged, we should also consider reporting it to the police.
Sometimes it may be hard to see how our behaviour affects someone else, especially if we cannot physically see the other person. Take a moment to consider how our actions could affect what they are feeling.
Could we be using this as a way to cope with issues that are troubling us? Sometimes, we might unknowingly be taking our frustration or anger out on others. We can always choose to reach out for support instead.
Help123 is a cyber wellness and digital parenting platform by TOUCH Community Services, supported by Singtel. It features content developed by experts from TOUCH Cyber Wellness, TOUCH Youth Intervention and TOUCH Parenting which are services under the TOUCH Integrated Family Group.
If you are facing other issues related to assistance in court and police cases in the online space, there are several organisations you can turn to for help.
Belle, Beyond the Label helpbot, is an interactive platform for users to find mental health resources and services in a private and convenient manner. If you or anyone you know is overwhelmed with stress or anxiety, find the help you need via Belle.
Whatever we share in the online world, or cyberspace, can be accessed by anyone, and may remain online forever. Anything we put online, be it on social media, blogs, or even in a game, can affect us negatively if we are not careful.For example, casually posting our personal phone number online could result in getting unwanted calls from strangers.
Using our devices excessively may affect our self-esteem, as we may start to compare ourselves with others. For instance we may become envious when we derive our sense of self-worth by comparing ourselves with other people’s curated images posted on social media.A phenomenon called the fear of missing out (FOMO) may also create a form of social pressure for us to be online all the time so that we don’t miss out on the things happening on social media.We may feel anxious if we don’t respond immediately to texts and posts. This could potentially cause sleeping problems, anxiety, or may even lead to depression.
Express ourselves online as we would offline, e.g. share about things that we truly enjoy to stay genuine and sincere.
The meaning of our words can sometimes be misunderstood when written as text on an online platform, as opposed to when they are spoken verbally face-to-face.
What we say online can be easily accessed by others, even if it’s a message or a post that is private. Think about what can happen if they become viral.Before we post anything, we should remind ourselves of the acronym ‘THINK’:
It is easy to misinterpret what others are saying online. Refrain from being too quick to jump to conclusions or to take offense with the other party. Instead, we could try to give ourselves the opportunity to clarify with them.Miscommunications are unavoidable and may happen because our online expressions do not have the same non-verbal cues as they do in the offline world.
Be kind and considerate by respecting one another online, especially the privacy of others.
Avoid spreading rumours as they can circulate a lot more easily online.Be considerate towards others, and treat them the same way that we would want to be treated. For example, ask for permission before posting photos, videos, and details of others online.
Ask ourselves the following questions:
With the prevalence of social media, talking to strangers online has become extremely common. This also means that there’s a greater chance of falling prey to online predators, which could result in us being hurt physically or emotionally.Traits of online predatorsThe anonymity of the Internet provides the perfect platform for a seasoned predator to operate from. They can communicate directly with us via direct messaging or social media sites, etc.These predators may hide information about themselves, such as their real age and intentions and by engaging us through our interests, e.g. popular music artists and using our lingo, they would be able to establish a relationship and gain our trust.
When we communicate online with strangers, we put ourselves at risk of falling prey to online grooming. Cases of online grooming show that initial conversations can appear innocent, but they often involve some level of deception as they progress.Through this anonymity, the predator will be able to continue to entice us to meet their objectives, e.g. to meet-up offline.
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