Let’s talk about cyber wellness
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.
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.
Why is cyber wellness important?
Cyber wellness is important as it helps us learn about the watch-outs, the risks and how to keepourselves safe in cyberspace. Click the cards below to find out more.
What are good practices in cyberspace?
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:
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).
When encountering inappropriate content, here are some things we can do:
Report and block the content
Close our browsing tab
Talk to someone about it
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
- 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
- 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 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
- 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?
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:
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:
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
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
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
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
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:
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.
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.
- Stay Alert
- Cut off contact
- Be mindful of scams
- Look out for others
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 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.
Here are some ways to help us resist peer pressure and social media influence:
Saying “no” and meaning it
Saying ‘no’ helps establish our boundaries. Practise saying “no” if we are asked to do...
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
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
Uninstalling social media apps from our smartphone will remove our urge to constantly check for updates…
Mental health services
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.