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Uncategorized July 18, 2023

Social Media, Healthy Use & Well-Being – A Curated Set of Reading Resources

(Reader mode is recommended for optimal viewing on mobile devices.) Mental health & cyber wellness has become one of the top issues facing young people today. Trends point toward youths who are more stressed out, anxious and display greater signs of depression. The unhealthy use of digital devices and social media is seen to be one of the key predictors, causing lesser sleep, fear of missing out, social comparison, negative self-esteem and online aggression. We have curated a set of reading resources that helps explains how the fundamental business models of social media (such as targeted advertising & the attention economy) drive the design of social media features & usage patterns that compromise mental health. Read on to learn how to evaluate youths for addictive use of technology, identify depressive symptoms, and more importantly engage youths and manage use of social media practically.
Description of Reading Title of Reading Link
Brief Overview of Social Media Usage in Singapore The Complete Guide to Social Media Statistics in Singapore
Benefits & Harms of Social Media Usage for Children The Impact of Social Media on Children, Adolescents, and Families
Addictive Nature of Social Media The Pursuit of "Likes"
What Students are Posting Online Students Posting Their Teachers on Social Media: What is Wrong?
The Dangers of Targeted Advertising for Children Advertisers Targeting Children Online
  We conduct regular professional development and cyber wellness programmes in schools, contact us to find out more today.  
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  • April 28, 2023

    Hyperpersonal Danger of Online Communication

    (Reader mode is recommended for optimal viewing on mobile devices.) 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. [gallery link="file" columns="1" size="full" ids="320"] 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: [gallery link="file" columns="1" size="full" ids="400"] 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) [gallery link="file" columns="1" size="full" ids="421"] 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. 
    December 9, 2022

    ‘Tis the Season for Battle Passes

    (Reader mode is recommended for optimal viewing on mobile devices.) 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. [gallery link="file" columns="1" size="large" ids="171"]

    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? [gallery link="file" columns="1" size="full" ids="173"]

    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. [gallery link="none" columns="1" size="full" ids="160"]

    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. [gallery columns="1" link="file" size="full" ids="161"]


    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 10, 2020

    Improving the Quality of Your Children’s Screen Time: Examples and Tips for Parents

    What is your child doing when he/ she uses devices and screens? Are there ways to choose better screen time? The American Academy of Pediatrics recommend less than 2 hours of daily screen time for primary school children. It goes on to state that these should be “high-quality content”.
    1. How can parents choose "high quality content"?
    2. How can parents improve the “quality of screen time” for our children?

    1) Choose interactive screen time

    In general, interactive screen time will provide better stimulation and learning compared to passive reception.
    • Examples of passive screen time will be TV and videos
    • Examples of interactive screen time will be multi-player games, educational applications that require responses from the user & Google Map
    quality screen time cyber wellness singapore Five year-old Chase loves to hold the GPS when travelling. He loves selecting his favourite car and “navigating” it on the iPad. Occasionally he looks up and matches the surrounding landmarks to what he sees on the tablet. This visual interaction between screen and physical objects trains him to interpret a 3D environment from a 2D screen. Car journeys are much more engaging and healthy with such screen time. Some other examples of interactive screen time:
    • Taking photos and making videos instead of merely watching them
    • Exploring a trip destination with Google Earth
    quality screen time for children cyber wellness singapore While interactive screen time usually teaches better than passive screen time, it is also important to scrutinize the content.
    • Harmful interactive content (such as video games where players kill and commit crimes) will teach unhealthy practices more effectively compared to just movies of similar content.
    • Likewise, interactive prosocial behaviour is more effectively imparted in an interactive manner

    2) Interact with your child over screen time

    Besides choosing apps and programmes that are interactive, parents can also mediate in all screen time by watching programmes and playing games with their children. It will be even better if they follow up with questions to stimulate the children’s thinking. Eleven year-old Elizabeth interacts with her friends over online chats and Google +. One of her favourite sites showed a post that gives users a “sexy name” based on their month of birth. Her father (who interacts with her over Google +) talks to her about how “sexy names” promote a demeaning image and attract the wrong kind of friends. Elizabeth responds by blocking similar sites out of her own will. (2 years later, Elizabeth also distances herself from schoolmates who send her such content.) Research shows that when parents discuss negative content on screens with their children, the children fare just as well as those who do not encounter these negative content. quality screen time family conversations cyber wellness singapore In the digital age where it is difficult to ensure a sterile media environment for our children, interaction and processing is KEY to cyber wellness. Interactive screen-time is a powerful teaching tool for young children today. Do not allow it to shape your child’s mind in unintended ways. You can help your child get more out of technology. Look out for the parenting workshop “The Art & Science of Parenting in the Internet Age” on 29 May 2015. Parents will learn more practical tips to handle online activities during the June holidays and gain further understanding on how different games & apps can affect your child. Originally written for Innova Primary School
    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

    child playing lego 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. 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!
    April 6, 2020

    Cyberwellness for Families: Managing Distractions from Social Media


    youtube application Children love the endless choices they have on the platform. From games & music videos to Running Man, there are so much to look forward to. And you do not have to search very hard! Recommendations, special channels, email alerts are pushed to every user. We are entertained whenever, wherever and whatever! “There is never a boring moment nor an end to the show!”


    Who can resist the excitement of chatting with friends & classmates, sharing jokes and videos, all through the FREE app? Group chats help children stay in touch. Every WhatsApp alert sends a shot of excitement and makes us wonder “who?” & “what?” “I just have to reach out to check my phone!”


    “How many people liked my photo?” “Who is this new follower on my account?” “Don’t I look nice in my new selfie?” “Am I popular?” Girls are especially attracted to social media! But it is so distracting! And takes so much time! Parents need to understand that social media works by getting children (and adults) to click as much as possible.

    Important Information The more users click, the more information YouTube, WhatsApp & Instagram collect, the more these companies are able to sell advertisements & make use of the personal data.

    They will never stop prompting, alerting, attracting & persuading you to use the apps! "I would like my child to be able to enjoy social networking. How can they use it without it taking over their lives?

    (1) Manage the cravings - Shut off the Internet

    Regularly shut off the Internet to remove stimulation for a period of time. Doing this helps us to reduce the urge to reach out and connect. “Shutdown time helps shift the control back to me!”

    (2) Enforce social media blackouts during schoolwork & mealtimes

    It is most fruitful to focus totally on schoolwork without switching your attention every other minute. Family time is also most useful when we pay attention to understand and catch up with one another. “The important people are in front of you, not somewhere out in cyberspace!”

    (3) Manage the alerts

    Decide which sources are most important. Remove alerts for the rest. On WhatsApp, mute all conversations except for the really important ones Limit your YouTube channel subscriptions. Remember there is no end to them.

    (4) Build an awesome & exciting real life!

    When there is nothing more exciting, challenging and fulfilling life, alerts will fill your life! Consider spending your time through:
    • Great CCAs keep us working on longer term goals and benefits
    • Frequent family activities keep us busy with one another instead of distractions
    Originally written for Innova Primary School.
    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. We look forward to more good work to come! Read more online at The Straits Times.
    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, 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.