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MindSG

Explore our suite of self-care tools and resources to help you better understand and manage your mental health.

Let’s talk about cyber wellness

As a youth or young adult, we have been immersed in the online space since a young age.

And because cyberspace has always been a big part of our lives, it may influence our views, behaviour, and interactions with one another, both online and offline. From the way we learn, to how we build relationships, we do things differently compared to the generations before us.

While we may feel comfortable with the digital world, being closely linked to cyberspace also subjects us to its own challenges and problems. Therefore, it is critical that we learn how to build a safe space and improve our cyber well-being.

What is cyber wellness?

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.

What is cyber wellness

Why is cyber wellness important?

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.

How long does our digital footprint last?

How long does our digital footprint last?

How does our online behaviour affect our mental well-being?

How does our online behaviour affect our mental well-being?

What are good practices in cyberspace?

Having good netiquette

Having good netiquette

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:

Be genuine

Be genuine

Be mindful of how we express ourselves

Be mindful
of how we
express ourselves

Be aware of what we share

Be aware of what
we share

Stay calm

Stay calm

Be respectful

Be respectful

Spread positivity, not rumours

Spread positivity,
not rumours

Responsible handling of online content

Responsible handling of online content

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).

What are examples of dubious, inappropriate, or harmful content?

How would we know if content is inappropriate?

When encountering inappropriate content, here are some things we can do:

Report and block the content

Report and block the content

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 our browsing tab

Close our browsing tab

Close the browser or the browsing tab immediately so that we can stop viewing any of the inappropriate content.

Talk to someone about it

Talk to someone about it

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.

Be mindful of misinformation

Be mindful of misinformation

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 cynical
When 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.

Check the Source

Check the Source
  • Identify the source of the evidence. Knowing where it comes from can help us verify if it is from a reputable source. If the evidence does come from a credible source, it is likely to be reliable.
  • Having a piece of evidence is insufficient to fully verify a claim. However, a lack of evidence gives reason to doubt if the claim is trustworthy.
  • On social media platforms, check the post’s origin and see if it is an authentic web source. Some fake news originate from dubious web sources that imitate official websites by adding an extension to the web address.

Understand the information we read online

Understand the information we read online
  • Personal expressions and opinions on social media can expose us to information and views which may potentially mislead us.
  • Understand the difference between facts and opinion.
  • Some fake news are vague in their details and lack facts, e.g. no date or time or links to other official sources.

Research the authenticity of an article

Research the authenticity of an article
  • Research using credible sources to confirm the authenticity of an article or message received.
  • Dig deeper beyond the initial source.
  • Find at least two or more sources to confirm if the information is real.
  • Identify who the author is and his/her affiliations, if any. Doing so can help us infer what the author’s intentions are, and if any biases are present.

Evaluate from different angles

Evaluate from different angles
  • Is the information fair and balanced?
  • Before we choose to share or forward information, exercise fair judgement, and consider if the headline or content may be manipulated.
  • It is important to evaluate what we see, as they may not reflect the actual situation.

How do we safeguard ourselves from the dangers of cyberspace?

How do we safeguard ourselves from the dangers of cyberspace?

Moderate the time we spend in cyberspace

Moderate the time we spend in cyberspace

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:

Offline commitments

Offline commitments

We might miss out on school or work just to spend time online, e.g. on games or social media.

Emotional health

Emotional health

We might become restless, irritable, or anxious when we cannot use our devices.

Physical health

Physical health

We might be sleeping less because we stay up late to use our devices.

Social behaviour

Social behaviour

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:

Keep track of our screen time

Keep track of our screen time

Set a timer or schedule to keep track of the time spent online.

Make time for family and friends

Make time for family and friends

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.

Reach out to someone

Reach out to someone

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.

Disconnect to connect

Disconnect to connect

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.

Be mindful of interactions with cyber contacts

Be mindful of interactions with cyber contacts

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:

Falling prey to the dangers of anonymity

Falling prey to the dangers of anonymity

With the prevalence of social media, talking to strangers online has become extremely common...

Falling prey to online grooming

Falling prey to online grooming

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:

How to avoid becoming a victim

How to avoid becoming a victim

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

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.

Tips to resist peer pressure and social media influence

Here are some ways to help us resist peer pressure and social media influence:

Saying “no” and meaning it

Saying “no” and meaning it

Saying ‘no’ helps establish our boundaries. Practise saying “no” if we are asked to do...

Stop ‘following’ them

Stop ‘following’ them

We are in control of what we see on our social media platforms. If there are things that make...

Remind ourselves of the consequences

Remind ourselves of the consequences

Take a moment to imagine what the consequences may be if we get involved in things we…

Delete social media apps from our electronic devices, if necessary

Delete social media apps from our electronic devices, if necessary

Uninstalling social media apps from our smartphone will remove our urge to constantly check for updates…

Cyberbullying

Cyberbullying

Cyberbullying, or online harassment, can adversely affect our cyber wellness. It occurs when people use technology to intentionally hurt someone in cyberspace.

Common experience
Cyberbullying is a common experience of many people. It can happen to anyone.

Effects of cyberbullying
The 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.

Forms of Cyberbullying

Cyberbullying can come in many forms. Here are some examples:

Denigration

Spreading rumours or untruth statements that can hurt a person’s reputation.

Trickery

Fooling someone into sharing their personal information which is then posted online without their permission.

Cyber stalking

Using online platforms to harass or stalk a person.

Impersonation

Ruining a person’s reputation by posting offensive or aggressive messages under the person’s name.

Harassment

Continually sending vicious, or disturbing messages to a person.

Flaming

Sending messages that aim to provoke an online argument.

Exclusion

Intentionally excluding someone from an online group.

Doxing

Revealing an individual’s or organisation’s private information through the Internet.

If we find ourselves possibly cyberbullying someone.

What to do if we are being cyberbullied

As cyberbullying is common and can easily happen to anyone, it is important to know how to deal with it:

Stop what we are doing online

Stop what we are doing online

Do this when we encounter something that makes us feel uncomfortable, fearful, or hurt.

Block the person

Block the person

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.

Save the evidence

Save the evidence

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.

Tell someone we trust

Tell someone we trust

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

Report

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.

If we find ourselves possibly cyberbullying someone,

Try to walk in the shoes of the person who’s being bullied

Try to walk in the shoes of the person who’s being bullied

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.

Consider if there are better ways to cope with our problems

Consider if there are better ways to cope with our problems

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.

Mental health services

For mental health services related to cyber wellness:

For mental health services related to cyber wellness.

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

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.

References

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