SINGAPORE: A new study released on Tuesday (Feb 6) showed that 54 per cent of Singapore children aged between eight and 12 are exposed to at least one cyber-risk, which includes cyberbullying, video game addiction, offline meetings and online sexual behaviour.
The Singapore findings of the 2018 DQ Impact Report issued by DQ Institute, an international think tank created to improve digital education, found that the 54 per cent figure is just below the global average of 56 per cent.
For those exposed to these risks, however, close to half (43 per cent) have been victimised through cyberbullying in the past year, while 16 per cent have been involved in online sexual behaviours such as having searched for and/or visited websites with sexual content, and/or having had sexual conversations online with strangers, it added.
About one in 10, or 12 per cent, of the respondents said they have chatted with and met online strangers in real life - two percentage points above the global average - while 11 per cent meet the criteria for video game addiction, the study found.
The 2018 DQ Impact Report conducted an online survey for 38,000 eight- to 12-year-olds in 29 countries during the second half of 2017. More than 3,600 children in Singapore were polled, founder of DQ Institute Dr Park Yuhyun told Channel NewsAsia.
MOBILE PHONES AND SOCIAL MEDIA COMBO ADDS TO RISKS
Delving deeper into the Singapore-specific findings, DQ Institute found that the eight- to 12-year-olds spend an average of 35 hours a week in front of digital screens for entertainment alone and this is three hours more than the global average. This number increases when screen time for homework assignments are factored in, it added.
In terms of activities, the majority of these children, specifically 78 per cent, are using the Internet for watching online videos, while 61 per cent indicated they go online to play video games. Rounding off the top three activities is listening to music, at 54 per cent, the study found.
It also found that despite some social media platforms introducing a minimum age of 13 for users, 85 per cent of children here polled said they have used these platforms, and 39 per cent indicated they are highly active on them.
Activities include making and posting videos and photos, creating online profiles, chatting more with other users and buying and selling physical and virtual items.
Messaging platform WhatsApp and video streaming site YouTube are top on the children's list of social media platforms, with Instagram a distant third, it found.
Combine social media usage with mobile phones and the effect is higher online risks for these groups of children, the study said.
The cyber risks faced by children who own a mobile phone but are not active on social media is at 52 per cent, while those who do not own a mobile phone are at 45 per cent. By comparison, children who own a mobile phone and are highly active on social media see their online risks jumping to 70 per cent, the study revealed.
"These numbers demonstrate that children everywhere are at risk, but the risk is higher when children combine a personal mobile device with active social media use," it said.
On Tuesday, which is also Safer Internet Day, DQ Institute and local telco Singtel announced it is collaborating to introduce the DQEveryChild programme, which is aimed to nurture digital intelligence among children by engaging primary schools here.
This is done by helping children use digital technology and media in "safe, responsible and effective ways" as they spend more time online, they added in the press release.
Singtel is funding the DQEveryChild programme, which is expected to be introduced to all primary schools here this year, it said.