A DQ Institute global study on child online safety released in association with Singtel has ranked Singapore fourth after Spain, Australia and Malaysia for best online safety in the inaugural Child Online Safety Index (COSI) which measures the level of online safety for children in 30 countries.

Launched today on Safer Internet Day 2020, COSI is the world’s first real-time measure to help countries better monitor and understand the status of children’s online safety by analysing six pillars – Cyber Risks, Disciplined Digital Use, Digital Competency, Guidance and Education, Social infrastructure and Connectivity. The results are based on a survey of more than 145,000 children and teenagers and other external sources.

Singapore topped the 30 countries in the area of Connectivity, ranking high in internet speed (1st) and access (4th). In terms of its Social Infrastructure, cyber security infrastructure (3rd) was an area of excellence. Digital Competency was another positive area for Singapore, where it scored well in cyberbullying management (4th) and digital empathy (5th).

The study also found that globally 60% of 8 to 12 year olds and 73% of teenagers are exposed to cyber risks. The figures for Singapore are similar, where 57% of 8 to 12 year olds and 73% of teenagers face cyber risks. Cyber bullying is the top cyber risk for both 8 to 12 year olds (40%) and teenagers (52%) in Singapore, followed by reputational risks (30%) and violent content (27%) for 8 to 12 year olds, and sexual content (51%) and cyber threats (50%) for teenagers.

Mr Andrew Buay, Vice President, Group Sustainability at Singtel said,

“The results show the need for urgent collective action to make the internet a safer place for our children, especially with the prevalence of digital media and devices. Cyber wellness has been a key thrust of Singtel’s community sustainability efforts. Through our Digital Thumbprint programme and work with partners such as the DQ Institute, we seek to equip children with the knowledge and digital skills to be safe, responsible and positive online from an early age. With the launch of COSI, stakeholders can more effectively identify areas for improvement, and work on coordinated responses on a community, national and global level to minimise the risks and maximise the benefits of the digital world for children.”

Dr Park Yuhyun, founder of DQ Institute, said, “Everyone in society has a role to play. Businesses, from social media and telecommunications to hardware and gaming companies, should make child online safety a core business principle. Companies should also partner with schools to help tackle cyberbullying. And governments must back stronger online safety for children and families. Most importantly, parents must be aware that they can make changes and reduce online harm. Just like a regular health-check, parents can monitor and improve their child online safety and their digital parenting. Helping children better manage their digital use from an early age is a necessary starting point for mitigating cyber risks.”

The study offered practical recommendations to mitigate cyber risks, which include disciplined digital use by controlling screen time and mobile usage especially for younger children, active engagement of parents and teachers in children’s digital lives and national policies and industry support for digital citizenship education.

Singtel’s approach to digital wellness for children

Teaching cyber wellness to children has been a key focus of Singtel’s community sustainability efforts since 2013. Its cyber wellness initiatives include the Digital Thumbprint Programme which teaches youth to understand the impact of their online behaviour and how to be safe and responsible for their online activities; the Cyber Wellness Toolkit for special education schools developed for students with special needs; and notAnoobie, a cyber wellness resource website which helps parents to guide their children on cyber risks and online safety. Singtel is also a strategic partner of Help123, the first one-stop platform in Singapore that allows youth, family members and educators to connect with support services about their cyber concerns.

Singtel’s strategic collaboration with the DQ Institute, #DQEveryChild, aims to empower every child with digital intelligence through free online education tools and has reached over 70,000 children in Singapore to date. This #DQEveryChild movement, which started with the support of Singtel, has since quickly expanded in collaboration with the World Economic Forum to include over 100 partner organisations.

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