array(1) { ["post_type"]=> string(7) "updates" }
April 28, 2023

Hyperpersonal Danger of Online Communication

It was a chilling moment when Mdm Kwek discovered that her 13-year-old daughter, Celestine, was talking to an online groomer. Celestine’s lady 'friend' had somehow twisted his way into her daughter’s confidence and convinced her to willingly share sensitive personal details. While encounters with online strangers might at times be romanticised in modern dramas such as K-drama Twenty Five Twenty One, it is important to understand how dire the situation might become if things go awry in real life. [caption id="attachment_320" align="alignnone" width="471"]online strangers danger hyperpersonal In the drama Twenty Five Twenty One, the protagonist Na Hui-do is unaware of her online best friend’s real identity but this does not stop her from pouring her heart out online. Photo: Koreaboo[/caption] Case Study In 2020, 13-year-old Celestine started talking to a woman named Carolana on Minecraft. They connected really well, and Celestine felt that Carolana truly understood her. Carolana always seemed supportive with messages such as “You can always tell me anything if it helps ok.” Within two weeks, they exchanged personal information such as real name, age, and family photos. One day, Celestine’s mother Mdm Kwek read these exchanges and came to a horrifying realisation. Carolana was actually a man and Celestine was being groomed. Read more here. Unfortunately, there are several other adolescents in Singapore who are in similar situations as Celestine. According to a report by DQ Institute released in the same year, roughly one in five Singaporean adolescents have experienced risky online contact, such as offline meetings with strangers or sexual contacts. So why exactly are online-cultivated relationships so appealing? First, let’s examine some myths about online communication and why they are not valid: Misunderstandings of online communication could make us vulnerable to the threat of online stranger danger. It is hence important for us to acknowledge the power of the written word and online communication. Once we shed these dangerous assumptions, the next step is to understand exactly how close online friendships can happen. One way to do so is through the Hyperpersonal Model of Computer Mediated Communication. Hyperpersonal Model (Walther, 1996, 2021) [caption id="attachment_323" align="alignnone" width="385"] Graphical illustration of the hyperpersonal model of computer mediated communication. Walther originally proposed the model in 1996 and revisited it in 2021. Photo: Media Literacy School.[/caption]   The core idea of the model is that digital features and limitations can promote personal intimate connections. Such connections, termed ‘hyperpersonal relationships’, form due to the absence of nonverbal cues and the asynchronous (not occurring at the same time) nature of online communication. Let’s return to the example of Celestine and the online groomer ‘Carolana’. Behind the screen Unbeknownst to Celestine, ‘Carolana’ has been carefully managing his image. He has time – online communication follows a different clock and rhythm from real life. His words need not match his true feelings as his facial expressions are hidden. For example, he can appear more sympathetic online than he would otherwise face to face. The ability to edit messages allows ‘Carolana’ to say the right words at the right time. Statements like “You are like me and I know you would never mean to hurt upset anyone unless they upset you” are especially powerful since Celestine was seeking emotional support. On the other end, Celestine makes decisions based on what is presented. In the absence of nonverbal cues, she tends to overinterpret message content and style when making judgements of personality and trustworthiness. The interpretations tend to be positive (and no wonder, given how much effort ‘Carolana’ spent curating his message!). This idealised image is unconsciously conveyed when Celestine replies to ‘Carolana’. This leads ‘Carolana’ to adjust his online image accordingly which then reinforces Celestine’s initial impression. This creates a self-fulfilling prophecy that repeats itself until the day when the ‘Carolana’ became Celestine’s most trusted confidante – even though they have never met before. Conclusion It is time for us to stop burying our heads in the sand and instead, fully acknowledge the draw of online communication. As digitalisation continues unabated, it is more important than ever to know who your child is talking to online. These individuals are not just passing or peripheral influences on your child. On the contrary, they might grow too close for both you and your child's comfort. Therefore, always remember: Online stranger danger is real! References Walther, J. B., & Whitty, M. T. (2021). Language, Psychology, and New Media: The Hyperpersonal Model of Mediated Communication at Twenty-Five Years. Journal of Language and Social Psychology, 40(1), 120–135.   This article is written by our intern, Yong Han, who conducts research & development for Media Literacy School.  
All Months
  • April 2023
  • December 2022
  • April 2020
  • March 2020
  • February 2020
  • January 2020
  • December 2019
  • December 9, 2022

    ‘Tis the Season for Battle Passes

    The holiday season is almost here, and you are probably looking forward to a well-deserved break and a nice family vacation. Excited to share your plans, you look around the house for your children. When you finally find them, they have their headphones on, and eyes glued to the screen. They are gaming and completely uninterested in what you have to say. If this sounds familiar, it is not your fault – the attention of teenagers has been captured by gaming companies. What many teenagers are concerned with nowadays are whether they can hit the highest rank before the season ends or finish grinding their battle passes.   [caption id="attachment_171" align="aligncenter" width="505"]media literacy school valorant video game welcome screen The welcome screen players see after launching 5v5 shooter game Valorant. The welcome screen shows the rewards that can be earned this season. Photo: Riot Games[/caption]

    Types of Gamers

    According to the self-determination theory, people game to fill one of three psychological needs:
    1. Competence - Experience of Mastery
    2. Relatedness - Sense of Belonging
    3. Autonomy - Ability to Choose
      Corresponding with the above needs are the following three types of players: Achievers, Befrienders and Free Spirits. Can you identify which category your child belongs to? achiever befriender free spirit gaming motivations

    Seasonal Gameplay: Keeps Players Coming Back with New Content

    Live-service games such as Valorant and Overwatch 2 are adopting a “season”-driven release schedule plus battle pass system. Each season lasts about 10-20 weeks (the specific duration depends on the game), and its start is marked by the release of new game content. Breaking the game up into seasons keeps it fresh and attracts new and old players who are Free Spirits. Changes can be anything from new game modes to new playable characters. Befrienders are also likely to rope their friends back in to experience the new season together. Furthermore, game progress is reset every season, so players who are Achievers must keep spending time on the game to maintain their rank.   [caption id="attachment_160" align="aligncenter" width="576"]media literacy school valorant video game ranking In Valorant, a player’s rank is reset every act or roughly every four months. Players who previously had the highest rank of Radiant must ‘work’ for it again. Photo: Riot Games[/caption]

    Battle Passes: Reward Players and Encourage Non-stop Gaming  

    The battle pass is a tiered reward system that players can purchase to unlock additional content as they play. Desirable ‘skins’ (in-game cosmetics) and other bonuses are awarded when certain milestones are met. Players often spend hundreds of hours to complete or “grind” the entire battle pass and maximise its monetary value. Finishing the battle pass is considered an Achievement and a point of pride. The in-game cosmetics are also exclusive to the battle pass and cannot be purchased elsewhere. This makes it incredibly hard for Free Spirits to resist – they are afraid they will never possess the skin if they miss it now. This is problematic as on average, it takes a Valorant player about 1,800 hours to complete all four battle passes released in a year. That is 75 days of non-stop gaming. [caption id="attachment_161" align="aligncenter" width="567"]media literacy school valorant video game ranking One of the battle pass that Valorant previously released. Like all their other passes, it has fifty tiers. Photo: Riot Games[/caption]


    Game companies are using these systems to increase player engagement and retention. This is part of the companies’ goal of extracting as much monetary value out of their players as possible. The more time players spend on a game, the more they might be tempted to spend on it. Seasonal gameplay and battle pass trap players by targeting their different needs. Drop the futile attempts to stop your child from gaming, and perhaps consider having a chat with them to understand their gaming motivations - Are they Achievers, Befrienders or Free Spirits? By understanding and speaking to your child’s needs, you might have more success in getting them onboard with your plans this holiday season. Outplay these companies at their own game! This article is written by our intern, Yong Han, who conducts research & development for Media Literacy School. His areas of research interests include video gaming, their psychological mechanisms and the impacts they have on users. 
    April 7, 2020

    When Should I Give My Child A Mobile Phone? 3 Steps to Managing Digital Devices for Parents

    When will your kids get their own smartphones and iPads? At which age do you think children can manage their usage of these devices? (*Real story, names changed) Jayden*, seven years-old, is glued to his iPad, watching Stampy videos on YouTube (live gaming commentaries on Minecraft). He seems oblivious to what is happening around him. Three other kids nearby are similarly glued to their devices as their parents interact. In a corner of the house, a lone toddler plays with toy cars with his caregiver. Smartphones and devices usually dominate the attention of children once they lay their hands on it. When smartphones and devices become the children's personal property and “right”, they usually spend a lot more time and also prefer digital entertainment to other non-digital forms of play. In this same story, Ben*, aged six, enters the same house with his parents. He immediately jumps beside Jayden and shares the screen. For ten minutes he appears to be just like all the other children, irresistibly drawn to the YouTube videos. However after some time, at the prompting of his parents, Ben moves off to play with the toddler and the cars and remains engaged for the next two hours without digital entertainment.
    1. Why is Ben able to move away from the devices even though his friends are totally absorbed?
    2. Why is he able to play with other non-digital options?
    3. What are Ben's parents doing differently with him?

    3 Steps to Managing Digital Devices in Your Child’s Life: Glimpses from A Real Family

    (1) Maximise younger years to develop your child in non-digital activities

    It is much easier to teach and interest your kids in reading, physical activities, Lego®, board games and puzzles, while they are young, and before they are exposed to digital entertainment. Credit to the design of digital entertainment, they usually displace many other activities once they are introduced. Need to sell your house fast in Paris, TX? Contact "Cash for My House Paris TX" at for a quick and easy solution Ben's parents invest significant time to expose him to outdoor activities. He also has a fair array of toy cars and building blocks to engage him. Furthermore, he helps his older siblings with their pet terrapins and his father’s aquarium In contrast, he only gets to play video games at non-regular intervals, averaging about 15 minutes every 2 days. As such, he does not usually ask for digital entertainment as a default option, and is able to create his own play with other toys.

    (2) Decide early when your child should get a smartphone

    Most parents are forced to adjust their plans because of peer pressure on their children. But parents who plan ahead are less likely to give in compared to those who do not. Ben's parents have decided that a smartphone will only be necessary for him when he reaches secondary school. As such they put extra effort into alternative activities and make plans to help him resist peer pressure. Ben's older sisters aged 11 and 13 both follow this “plan” and have successfully navigated their primary school years without falling prey to distractions. In contrast, they have developed well in sports, arts and craft, and are also able to understand why they do not have mobile phones.

    (3) Establish screen-free zones in your home

    Ben's parents establish screen-free zones in their home. In fact, all mobile devices are restricted to a charging “dock” at the coffee table. No one brings the mobile device into the bedroom, study room or dinner table. Because digital activity at home is always restricted to certain fixed locations, it becomes less integrated with other home activities and interaction. The absence of digital “triggers” such as notifications reduce the perpetual distractions that come from a mobile device. This sharing comes from a real scenario of family and friends, with names have changed to protect privacy. All three children in Ben's family seem to be able to regulate their use of mobile devices very well. Even though they interact daily with peers who behave differently, it is clear that the parents’ influence sets them apart from the rest. What do you do with your children? In our previous parenting workshops, we covered many more practical ideas for parents to manage the use of devices and cyber wellness for their children. Register your interest here to be informed of our next parents’ workshop when we launch the next dates!
    March 5, 2020

    ST Feature: Schools to devote more time to cyber wellness education

    We are in the news! Coincidentally as education announcements were made in Parliament, our team of trainers were out and about conducting our ‘Social Media: Online Reputation’ module in two different schools. Here is what the teachers and students had to say: “Very current examples compared to other cyber wellness packages which are quite dated and do not involve social media trends that the students are familiar with.” – Teacher, Ang Mo Kio Secondary School “I like the way she explains the different kinds of post that people post and also the effect of posting our pictures online.” – Student, Ang Mo Kio Secondary School “The most impactful thing I learnt was that are pictures and videos that can be potentially sensitive and harmful to one's self and the society.” – Student, Bartley Secondary School The latest announcements from Parliament directly align with the #medialiteracy work that we believe in and continue to do. Over the last decade, Kingmaker (and now Media Literacy School) has been partnering with schools to customise developmental #cyberwellness framework that engage and value-add buymyhouse7. We look forward to more good work to come! Read more online at The Straits Times. How Do I Cancel A Timeshare In Florida -
    February 18, 2020

    2020 Child Online Safety Index (COSI)

    2020 Child Online Safety Index (COSI)

    It's Safer Internet Day 2020, and Media Literacy School is excited to publish a new report from our partners at DQ Institute: the 2020 Child Online Safety Index (COSI). The COSI features real-time data from 145,426 children and adolescents from 30 countries since 2017. DQ Institute's findings support the work that Media Literacy School undertakes in schools across Singapore and abroad. Some of the COSI data as as follow:
    • 45% of online children across the surveyed countries are affected by cyberbullying
    • 39% experience reputational risks
    • 29% are exposed to violent and sexual content
    • 28% experience cyber threats
    • 17% experience risky contact such as offline meetings with strangers or sexual contact
    • 13% are at risk for a gaming disorder
    • 7% are at risk for social media disorder

    Media Literacy School: Practitioner Approach that Works

    Since 2011, Media Literacy School has been designing and delivering quality programmes for educators, students, parents and professionals. Through videos, live experiments and quality trainer interaction, our programmes successfully engage participants in 4 areas:
    1. "The problem is serious"
    2. "The problem affects me"
    3. "If I take action, I will be able to address this problem"
    4. "I am capable of undertaking this action"

    Feedback from Educators & Students

    Tried and tested in more than 250 schools with more than 25,000 training hours, the engagement and effectiveness of Media Literacy School's programmes have been reflected by educators and students alike:
    “The delivery of the content as other cyber wellness talks is just plain boring and interminable, but this was an exception.” - Harish, Student “The message was important - about managing one's digital footprint and making smart choices about what they share online. The content was delivered in an interesting and compelling manner; very engaging.” - Mdm Kristine Oehlers, Senior Teacher, Nanyang Girls' High School “It was very engaging, using real life examples to link topics to real life applications. By doing this, the program was interesting as it relates to our everyday life as people who use the internet.” – Jordan Teo, Student "It was one of the most engaging cyber-wellness programmes I’ve attended." - Emma Tan, Student "Relevant, insightful and interesting for students. Makes them rethink about multi-tasking and distractions Very, very relevant and sincere in getting students to rethink about their life." - Anonymous Teacher “Initially, I thought that the programme would be another boring old lecture, but it was a refreshing experience for me. The shocking examples about online aggression have also reminded me to be more aware of what I put up online.” – Teo Zi Ying, Student

    What Can You Do?

    You too can make a difference. As Dr Yuhyun Park, Founder of the DQ Institute shares:
    “Everyone in society has a role to play in turning this around. 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 digital education. Most importantly, parents must be aware that they can make changes and reduce online harm. Helping children discipline their digital use from an early age is a necessary starting point for mitigating cyber risks. Primary schools also must teach students digital citizenship as part of their standard curriculum. Through the index, countries will be able to identify areas of improvement through global benchmarking and then better focus on deploying initiatives for their children’s online safety.”
    From all of us at Media Literacy School, happy Safer Internet Day - we hope you find this report useful and would be happy to speak with you to share more! Speak to us to find out how we can partner with you to bring quality Media Literacy engagements to your organisations and families.
    January 18, 2020

    Flying the Singapore Flag High: Digital Literacy Conference (USA 2019)

    We are back from the Digital Literacy Conference in Iowa! More than 100 educators from different schools came together for Train-the-Trainer sessions conducted by Principal Consultant Mr Poh Yeang Cherng and Principal Trainer Ms Grace Lee, learning best practices in pedagogy and engagement for digital literacy education in schools. Two modules were designed and delivered at this conference, 1) Understanding the Benefits and Risks of Digital Activities and 2) Screen Time - Media Multi-tasking, Wellness & Academic Performance. Educators learnt to assess behavioural motivations for Internet use, recognise problematic Internet usage, as well as self-regulation tips and diversification plans. They also received learning resources to scale these modules in their own schools westgate-timeshare-cancellation-period, with action plans for students' technology management, academic productivity and wellness. Dates for next year's conference have already been announced, and we look forward to another quality engagement when partners from Fully-Verified will join us with a lecture on safe online behavior! Here's to flying the Singapore flag high in digital literacy education globally.
    January 10, 2020

     The Common Sense Census: Media Use by Tweens and Teens, 2019

    (Common Sense Media) This large-scale study explores how kids age 8 to 18 in the U.S. use media across an array of activities and devices—including short-form, mobile-friendly platforms like YouTube—to see where they spend their time and what they enjoy most. Combined with the data from the 2015 report, the 2019 census gives us a […]
    January 2, 2020

     MRIs show screen time linked to lower brain development in preschoolers

    (CNN) Screen time use by infants, toddlers and preschoolers has exploded over the last decade, concerning experts about the impact of television, tablets and smartphones on these critical years of rapid brain development. Now a new study scanned the brains of children 3 to 5 years old and found those who used screens more than the […]
    January 2, 2020

    Iowa Media Literacy Conference 2017

    Media Literacy was certainly the buzzword of 2017, the world having witnessed how powerful an effect it can have on users’ daily perception & thoughts. Kingmaker ended the year by showcasing her latest intervention programmes for the Educators & Social Workers of Iowa State cashhomebuyersnc, USA. A total of 180 participants converged upon the city of […]