The Net can be a trap for kids

Datuk Chong Sin Woon

PETALING JAYA: More Malaysian parents seem to be helping their underage children set up social media accounts despite these sites restricting access to those below age 13.

Besides being pestered by their children to do so, these parents felt that it was a way to help the youngsters keep in touch with their buddies.

A study by CyberSecurity Malaysia (CSM) found that almost half of the pupils aged between seven and nine have social media accounts.

This percentage went up to 67% for children aged between 10 and 12.

These students, said Deputy Education Minister Datuk Chong Sin Woon, were probably helped by their parents or elder siblings.

He urged parents and guardians not to allow their young charges on social media, saying that they were “too vulnerable” and might be exposed to strangers.

Letting them on social media makes them an easy target, he said.

CSM, which comes under the Science, Technology and Innovation Ministry, surveyed over 8,000 primary and secondary students nationwide last year. The full findings of the study have not been released but parts of it were made known to Sunday Star.

CSM chief executive officer Datuk Dr Amirudin Abdul Wahab said the survey showed that about 65% of those aged between 10 and 12 would spend one to two hours on social media daily.

Most social media platforms set a minimum age of 13 to sign up on their sites.

Almost all (92%) of those surveyed, who are between 13 and 17, have social media accounts. Almost 7% of those in this age group would spend between seven and eight hours online. Another 8% stay connected for over nine hours.

The trend is the same in Singapore.

Two years ago, Singapore’s Media Development Authority found that children were going online and accessing social media platforms even before they reach primary school age.

Melaka Action Group for Parents in Education (Magpie) chairman Mak Chee Kin said he knew of parents who had no qualms about their children accessing such sites.

“I know a few parents who proudly share that their young kids have social media accounts,” he said.

However, he acknowledged that there was no hard and fast rule about the “right age” of children getting access.

“It’s up to the parents,” he said, adding that the onus was on them to monitor their children.

He advised parents to follow their accounts so that they would know what was being posted.

A housewife, known only as June, opened a Facebook account for her eight-year-old son to keep in touch with his friends.

“We were living overseas then. When we moved back to Malaysia, he asked for a Facebook account.

“Then my other son wanted an account because his big brother has one,” she said, adding that the boys are not active users as they are too busy with sports and school.

They’re also on WhatsApp and YouTube.

She admitted to being more concerned about YouTube.

“How do we even monitor content when there are so many videos?”

Senior manager Louisa Chee, 39, admitted that she had started an Instagram account for her four-year-old son.

To her, the danger is avoided as she does not usually share the location of the postings.

“It’s an account dedicated to him so that I can keep track of his growing up photos.

“Who knows, a modelling agency might sign him up,” she said.

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