CYBERBULLYING

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The Media Literacy Council of Singapore defines cyberbullying as using ... victimisation among the youth of Singapore, claims that the ease of access to technology and social ... public scrutiny which some journalists or bloggers may seek.

CYBERBULLYING For a country that is the second smallest in Asia after the island of Maldives, Singapore has the second highest rate of cyberbullying among children and youth between 8 to 17 years old, according to research done by Microsoft in 2012. The 2014 Teens and the Screen survey of 512 Singaporean youth revealed that one in every three of them have either experienced or witnessed cyberbullying (Channel News Asia, 2014). The Media Literacy Council of Singapore defines cyberbullying as using electronic media such as handphones and the Internet to upset, intimidate or threaten another person. As this definition is very broad, there are many various types of cyberbullying. Cyberbullying can include sending someone a hurtful email, posting a humiliating photo or video of another individual on social media, posting personal information online, or creating fake profiles on social media sites (Media Literacy Council, 2013). With more than 104% of Internet penetration, Singapore has finally enacted a new law that criminalises cyberbullying after calls for tighter enforcement against it in 2012. Under the new law, cyberbullying is an illegal act that is classified as harassment, which can result in a fine of up to $5,000 or a jail term not exceeding one year. This contrasts with the previous Public Order and Nuisance Act, which classifies cyberbullying as Miscellaneous Offences and punishes with mere fines. In July 2013, a 16-year old Burmese girl committed suicide after she was subjected to cyberbullying by her ex-boyfriend who posted hateful comments about her on Facebook. This incident put the issue of cyberbullying under the spotlight on how it can adversely affect a person’s well-being. Dr. Thomas Hoult, the Associate Professor of Criminal Justice who published a paper on the effects of bullying victimisation among the youth of Singapore, claims that the ease of access to technology and social networking sites has made it less difficult for people to be mean and hurtful to one another. There are lesser inhibitions and reluctance to lash out vicious cruelty on someone online as their online behaviour seemingly carries no repercussions, and they do not have to deal with that individual in person. In addition, cyberbullying thrives on a conducive online environment where it can tap on the online support it can rally (Family & Life, 2014). Cyberbullying can result in serious emotional effects, such as depression, loss of interest and performance in school, or even suicidal thoughts. This is because unlike physical bullying, cyberbullying can “follow” the victim to every aspect of their lives, not allowing any escape from the trauma it imposes. This can induce the victim to feel helpless as there is nowhere to hide, and from the knowledge that the entire cyberspace knows about their humiliation or embarrassment online (Family & Life, 2014).

Thus, the new law against cyberbullying has been largely welcomed by the Singaporean society. It provides more protection for Singaporeans, especially for children who use the Internet by expanding the range of sentencing options for the court. The new law allows victims the option to seek civil remedies such as Protection Orders, which restrains harassers from inflicting further harm on them. The Protection Orders, which are governed by a set of simplified court procedures and court forms, can be expedited and obtained within one day. It enforces harassers to remove the degrading information posted online (AsiaOne, 2012). This law can also apply to publications, which can legally compelled to correct the incorrect information published if an individual were to invoke Section 15 of the law. In cases of online publications which may be anonymous or based overseas, the law can seek to identify the person by his or her username or account, Internet location address, website or email address, and prosecute the publication even without obtaining their real name. Should people re-post the publication in question of cyberbullying after the Protection Order is granted, the law will impose on them to remove their posts too (Chin, 2014). Law and Foreign Affairs Minister K Shanmugam believe that the newly enacted law will protect many public servants, who recount horror stories of being cyber-abused at work. Widely supported by the Members of Parliament (MPs), the law brought relief to Edwin Tong, the MP of MoulmeinKallang GRC, who was cyber-harassed by a male acquaintance who sent more than 50 messages a day, and even stalked her young daughter (Chin, 2014). However, MP Hri Kumar expressed his concern that the new Act which covers a wide spectrum of harassment cases, may not provide a complete and effective solution to cyberbullying, but can instead impede the important work of journalists and bloggers, by eschewing or strategically obstructing public scrutiny which some journalists or bloggers may seek. He also reminded the Parliament that criminalising cyberbullying may not be able to sufficiently address the problem of cyberbullying, and that policymakers should exercise more leniency on youth, as it is the time of their lives when they tend to make poor judgements and err (Chin, 2014). Instead of criminalising cyberbullying, there are many other solutions and technologies available to supervise, prevent and report malicious online material from the email and Internet. Security solutions available to schools and educational institutions assist to prevent cyberbullying, and prevention is always a better remedy than punishment. The key advantage in this approach is that these security solutions do not only attend to inbound material from the Internet, but also outbound traffic. An arsenal of web protocols and applications has amassed an unified solution to block cyberbullying threats and provide a comprehensive visibility to check and manage materials on the web from a single point of web administration (Robertson, 2014).

The Ministry of Education has introduced the cyber wellness module under the Citizenship and Character Education framework, which will be incorporated into the curriculum of subjects such as Civics and Moral Education, English and Mother Tongue languages. This module contains cyber wellness lessons that not only raises awareness on the dangers of cyberspace, but also on Internet relationships and social media identity (Yang, 2014). In conclusion, criminalising cyberbullying it should be strictly enforced, only on the grounds that it does not censor information and public voices, or harass critics of the government or those who passionately speak on social and policy matters. At the same time, the government should also consider that youth are prone to committing mistakes and there are many other solutions available to address cyberbullying.

Bibliography AsiaOne. (2012, July 10). Existing laws apply against cyberbullying too: DPM Teo. Retrieved from AsiaOne: http://news.asiaone.com/News/Latest+News/Singapore/Story/A1Story20120710358341.html Channel News Asia. (2014, September 2). 1 in 3 teens in Singapore have experienced cyberbullying: McAfee. Retrieved from Channel News Asia: http://www.channelnewsasia.com/news/singapore/1in-3-teens-in-singapore/1335540.html Chin, N. C. (2014, March 14). Anti-Harassment laws to fight 'social scourge'. Retrieved from Today Singapore: http://www.todayonline.com/singapore/anti-harassment-laws-fight-social-scourge Family & Life. (2014, March). Singapore is the Second Highest Nation of Cyberbullies. Retrieved from Family & Life: http://familyandlife.sg/Nurture/2014/03/Singapore_Second_Highest_Nation_Cyberbullies Media Literacy Council. (2013). The Internet..Convenience, Interaction, Inspiration and What Else? Retrieved October 1, 2014, from Media Literacy Council: http://www.medialiteracycouncil.sg/onlinesafety/Pages/cyber-bullying.aspx Robertson, S. (2014, January 28). What you really need to know about cyber-bullying in Singapore See more at: http://sbr.com.sg/information-technology/commentary/what-you-really-need-knowabout-cyber-bullying-in-singapore. Retrieved from Singapore Business Review: http://sbr.com.sg/information-technology/commentary/what-you-really-need-know-about-cyberbullying-in-singapore Yang, C. (2014, September 20). Students in Singapore alerted to cyberbullying in revised cyber wellness curriculum. Retrieved from The Straits Times: www.straitstimes.com/st/print/2852372

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