Need to address the root cause of cyberbullying

PARENTS should tone down their “moral panic” when it comes to dealing with children online.

While it’s normal to panic when mistakes are made, clinical psychologist Vizla Kumaresan is of the view that parents shouldn’t do so in front of the child.

“Don’t be too quick to punish. Kids must feel like they can come to you when they need to. Adults are also learning to adapt to technology, and like children, we’ll make mistakes along the way. That’s okay because it’s the best way to learn,” she added.

“With the focus on digital skills, both adults and children, are losing out on people skills.

Urging parents to build people skills and resilience in their children, Kumaresan said it’s a very important part in combating cyber harassment and bullying.

She was among the panellists at Thursday’s Digi CyberSAFE conundrum of cyberbullying versus resilience building roundtable discussion in Shah Alam.

“One of the root causes of bullying is power inequality, so we have to consider what kind of examples we’re setting as individuals, as a society, as a country.

“We must address the culture of violence which bullying is a part of,” she added.

The roundtable panellists (from left) Jo Tandre, Mustaffa, Kumaresan, Jasminejit and Yee, sharing their views with moderator Philip Ling (right).
The roundtable panellists (from left) Jo Tandre, Mustaffa, Kumaresan, Jasminejit and Yee, sharing their views with moderator Philip Ling (right).

Once a victim himself, CyberSecurity Malaysia (CSM) senior vice-president (outreach and capacity building division) Lt Col Mustaffa Ahmad (Rtd) said technology isn’t the problem, it is the human behind it.

Stressing that online safety and awareness is not just the government’s job, he said parents can be prosecuted if their children “do something bad online”.

If you’re a parent, the last thing you should do is to comment on your children’s social media, said Telenor Group vice-president (sustainability) Ola Jo Tandre.

Digi CyberSAFE is part of the Telenor Group’s global initiative to provide safe Internet in the countries it operates in.

“Children will mess up. You just have to show them a way out. Tell them who they can turn to for help – Childline Malaysia, for example, if they’re afraid to come to you.”

Child advocate Jasminejit Kaur warns that controlling children, instead of teaching them to be resilient, is “taking the easy way out”.

“Engage and build a relationship of trust with the child. You’ll never be able to keep up with them but parents must understand a bit of the lingo, and platforms, they’re using,” she said.

Offering an analogy, R.AGE deputy executive editor and producer Ian Yee said getting online is like playing sports.

“The more you do it, the higher the chances are you’ll get hurt.

“But that doesn’t mean you stop exercising or playing sports. You just have to learn to do it safely. The Internet is the same.”

The father of a one-year-old boy, Yee shared how the most common comments on R.AGE videos are about banning social media or an app. This, he said, solves nothing.

“The lack of respect towards the opposite gender, unkindness, and failing to understand boundaries, are what parents should be concerned about.

“We need to talk more about kindness, compassion, and empathy because that’s addressing the root of the problem behind cyber issues we are facing today.”

The event also saw the launch of the #Be Smart About Cyberbullying Survey 2017 to gather data on online bully behaviour from over 5,000 secondary schoolchildren.

A key objective of the survey is to understand the online behavioural patterns of schoolchildren and the disposition towards bullying behaviours, the emotional impact of victims, and the effectiveness of the coping strategies adopted.

The survey is available online at and through Unicef’s uReport platform.

To access the survey with UNICEF’s U-Report Malaysia, send the keyword DIGI via private message on Facebook ( or Twitter (