Saturday, 26 July 2014

Social media resource kit to help at-risk youth

By Priscilla Goy, The Straits Times, 25 Jul 2014

WHEN a young person with links to a gang is invited to a fight online, he could face more pressure to join in, because of social media's "visibility".

"If they get the invitation through an SMS, they can feign ignorance and say they did not see it. But on social media, others can see if they're online, so there is more compulsion for them to be seen as being supportive," said Dr Lim Sun Sun, an assistant dean at the National University of Singapore.

Social media thus poses a greater risk for delinquent youth, said Dr Lim, who led a team to develop a resource kit for those helping these young people. Targeted at schools and help groups, it aims to guide them in speaking to youth at risk and their parents about the dangers of using social media.

"There are many cyberwellness kits, but many of these are targeted at mainstream youth," Dr Lim told The Straits Times on Wednesday, at a symposium where the kit was launched.

The guide - which parents can view online - was designed based on interviews conducted by Dr Lim and her team in 2010 to 2011 with 36 juvenile delinquents regarding their use of social media. The study found they could be drawn into criminal activities and re-offending through social media.

"My interviews showed that because of the highly visible nature of Facebook and Twitter, some kids were compelled to publicly demonstrate their loyalty to gangs by liking a post or commenting positively on a call for a group fight," she said.

Associate Professor Muhammad Faishal Ibrahim, who is also Parliamentary Secretary for Health and Transport, said the kit was timely.

"The recent spate of anonymous online confessions among youths has raised concern among parents, educators and youth workers, as some... comments posted can be unkind and cruel."

Dr Faishal launched the kit at the 2014 Conversations on Youth symposium. He sits on the National Committee on Youth Guidance and Rehabilitation, whose members come from agencies involved in reducing juvenile delinquency.

Jointly organised by the Education, Home Affairs and Social and Family Development ministries, the symposium, held at the Orchid Country Club, was attended by 600 people, including social workers, teachers and law enforcement officers.

Montfort Care programme manager Jennie Wan, who counsels youth in cyberwellness, said: "The kit has case studies and articles we can use in sharing sessions with youth at risk and parents."

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