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Malaysia and Singapore ranked top 5 for best child online safety, says think tank

Malaysia and Singapore have been ranked among the top five countries with the best online safety for children, according to the Child Online Safety Index (COSI) by think tank DQ Institute released in association with Singaporean telco Singtel.

COSI aims 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, as well as other external sources.

Malaysia came in third with a score of 68.1 out of 100. For the six pillars in particular, Malaysia came in second for digital competency, sixth for social infrastructure, seventh for guidance and education, 10th for cyber risks, 13th for disciplined digital use, and 15th for connectivity. That said, the sample size in Malaysia was biased in favour of private schools, according to DQ Institute.

Under digital competency, Malaysia topped the charts for cyber security management. It was also ranked among the top five for digital empathy (#$) and digital footprint management (#5). Under social infrastructure, which Malaysia was ranked 6th in, the country was among the top five for cyber security infrastructure.

Separately, DQ Institute has also tied up with Telekom Malaysia to introduce COSI.  TM group CEO Noor Kamarul Anuar Nuruddin said the collaboration will help it increase awareness and advocate action on the safety of its children online. Some of the initiatives TM has taken over the years to help propel the country towards a digital nation include TM 3Ducation Programme in 3D printing, TM Nano Maker Kit Programme in data logging and TM Robotics Programme in programming.

Meanwhile, Singapore ranked fourth in the list of countries worldwide with a score of 65.8. It topped the 30 countries surveyed in the area of connectivity, ranking high in internet speed (#1) and access (#4). In terms of social infrastructure, cyber security infrastructure (#3) was an area of excellence. Digital competency was another positive area for Singapore, where it scored well in cyberbullying management (#4) and digital empathy (#5).

The study also found that globally 60% of 8 to 12 year olds and 73% of teenagers are exposed to cyber risks. In Singapore, 57% of 8 to 12 year olds and 73% of teenagers face cyber risks. Cyber bullying was also listed as 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.

Singtel’s VP, group sustainability, Andrew Buay, 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.

“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,” he said.

Cyber wellness has been a key thrust of Singtel’s community sustainability efforts. Through its Digital Thumbprint programme and work with partners such as the DQ Institute, Singtel said it seeks to equip children with the knowledge and digital skills to be safe, responsible and positive online from an early age. Meanwhile, its #DQEveryChild collaboration with DQ Institute intends to empower every child with digital intelligence through free online education tools and has reached over 70,000 children in Singapore to date, the telco said.

On the other hand, Indonesia was ranked 26th in the “below average” category with a score of 17.5. It came in 12th for disciplined digital use, 15th for cyber risks, 19th for social infrastructure, 24th for digital competency as well as connectivity, and 30th for guidance and education. For guidance and education in particular, Indonesia ranked the poorest in online safety education.

Tips to mitigate cyber risks

To mitigate cyber risks, the study encourages disciplined digital use, advising parents to control screen time and mobile usage especially for younger children. Parents and teachers should also actively engage with children’s digital lives. Meanwhile, national policies and industry engagement must also support digital citizenship education. More specifically, DQ Institute said social media, gaming, telecom, and device companies must include child online safey as a core business principle.

Founder of DQ Institute, Park Yuhyun, said 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, Park said.

“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,” he added.

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