Two-thirds of Kids Aged Seven to Nine Use Smartphones Daily, Many are on Facebook: Survey

Two-thirds of Kids Aged Seven to Nine Use Smartphones Daily, Many are on Facebook: Survey

The Straits Times
Republished with Permission
7 February 2021

Mr Chong Ee Jay, a cyber wellness expert at charity Focus on the Family Singapore, said most of the cases of children and teens with behavioural issues that he sees are linked in one way or another to the use of smartphones and screen time.

"In the past, it used to just be about addiction. But by now it has evolved to cover things like bullying, oversexualised or unhealthy content seen on social media, or unwanted solicitations from online predators," he said.

Even a channel as innocuous as YouTube has its dangers, said Mr Chong, citing how self-harm videos and suicide messages were spliced into Peppa Pig videos on the platform in 2019.

"That's a challenge when you have a platform that hosts a wide range of content from the good, the bad and the ugly," he said. "Nowadays, inappropriate content is not so straightforward anymore. It's not like you need to click on a porn site to see porn. It can be weaved into your mainstream content."

Another trend Mr Chong has noticed is young boys watching gameplay videos on YouTube, when parents restrict their video game time.

"So parents say you cannot play Minecraft, you cannot play Mobile Legends. So they just go online and watch people play, and it can be for hours," he said.

While unsurprising, Mr Chong said it is a concern that younger children are frequenting social media sites and registering for accounts before they are legally of age.

"For the younger kids, they grew up with parents who are digital natives. They are already primed for it so I wouldn't be surprised that the exposure is so early," he said. "It still falls back on the parents to hold the line, whether you allow or not."

He added: "If they're already on social media, you need to caution them and tell them there's a reason why 13 is the legal age for protection. Use the opportunity to educate them that there are real dangers online."

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