While there are physical and geographical boundaries which limit the flow of information and media products in the real world, the internet does not have such constraints. This has created a world in which people have been empowered by the accessibility to all sorts of useful information, yet at the same time, also find easy access to what can be termed "harmful content".

Harmful Content

  • Websites that promote self-harm, e.g., sites that encourage suicide, promote eating disorders, drug use and other anti-social behaviour
  • Extremist sites that promote hate, extreme views and terrorism
  • Age-inappropriate sites refer to websites that host content that may not suitable for those under 18 years, for example, gambling or adult sites
  • Illegal content refers to websites that host content that may be illegal, depending on the local laws of the land. In most countries, child pornography sites are illegal.

It is not too difficult to stumble onto "harmful sites" as users conduct legitimate online searches. For example, a student searching for information on Bulimia for a school project on eating disorders may come across websites that promote binge eating. Meanwhile, another student who wants to find different ways of bingeing can purposefully look for sites that encourage the behaviour.

Site Blocking & Filters

In Singapore, the Info-communications Media Development Authority blocks 100 websites with objectionable content as a symbolic reflection of and statement on our societal values. These are largely pornographic and extremist or hate sites. Internet Service Providers or ISPs also offer filtering software that can block sexually explicit content or help parents keep track of where their children have been.

Since 23 February 2012, all service providers have been required, by law, to offer optional filtering services for fixed residential Internet access and for such filtering services to be highlighted to consumers at the point of subscription or renewal of Internet service. The ISPs are also required to provide and promote filtering services for mobile Internet access from 30 June 2012.

However, as the internet is a free information highway, it would be impossible to fully block objectionable and harmful content beyond the symbolic gesture, be it pornography or hate content. Research suggests that rather than shield children and students from negative content, the more effective thing to do would be to talk through with them on why something is wrong.

It's about seizing the moment to teach values and critical thinking skills, to get young people to reflect, to evaluate and to choose to do the right thing. This will make for more resilient people and build a more resilient society.

 

Back to top

 

 

As parents, it can be challenging to guide our children on Internet usage, as compared to other forms of media like books or movies.

If your concern is about exposure to sexually explicit content:

  • You should consider installing filtering software on your child's computer or smart phone. These filters are available from your broadband service provider and will block sexually explicit sites and images. However filtering tools are not 100% foolproof. Establishing a strong foundation of open communications with your child - remains vital in managing his/her online experience. Check out these filters:
  • Introduce your children to child-friendly search engines: These search engines allow children to safely surf the web with a much lower risk of accidentally seeing illicit pictures or search results.
  • If your child should stumble onto inappropriate content, take the opportunity to explain that the Internet offers many types of information and some may not be suitable for someone of his/her age. Always encourage your child to rationalise why the content may be bad, harmful or unsuitable for him/her.
    • Don't chastise them or restrict their internet use. The objective is to build trust so that the kids know they can always come to you.

If your concern is about exposure to hate or extremist content:

  • Teach your child that in Singapore, posting or creating any offensive or rude content regarding religion or race can be considered illegal. But more importantly, teach them the values of tolerance and empathy and the skills needed to communicate effectively in a multi-racial society.
  • Most extremist or hate sites on the Internet set out to gain sympathisers to their cause, and ultimately to radicalize them. Recognize that most young people who join hate causes often come from family backgrounds that lack love and affection, or are disaffected. So spend time with your kids and bond with them.
  • Have engaging discussions with your teens on difficult topics. Talk about values and ethics and help them see right from wrong.

     

    Back to top