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Singapore Government Strengthens Parental Controls for Children’s Internet Safety

As children become more active online at a younger age, the possibility and probability that they will see something inappropriate are determined entirely by what they do online. An innocent search can expose children to content that can upset and confuse them, whether it is an explicit pop-up ad on a free game, videos showcasing children’s cartoon characters in adult situations, or a forum promoting self-harm.

The Broadcasting Act gives the Infocomm Media Development Authority (IMDA) the authority to order Internet content providers to remove prohibited material and to request that Internet service providers block access to websites that contain such material.

Online content that is objectionable due to public interest, public order, or public security is prohibited, according to the Parliamentary Secretary for Communications and Information on Tuesday (Aug 3). But as blocking every website with such content is not possible given the porous nature of the Internet, teaching the young to navigate the Internet safely is essential. When determining what is prohibited material, one factor taken into account is “whether the material depicts detailed or relished acts of extreme violence or cruelty”.

The Parliamentary Secretary for Communications and Information was responding to a statement made by a parliament member who asked if the government will more proactively police the Internet and block violent content that children and youth can access here. IMDA requires Internet service providers to offer Internet parental control services to their subscribers. “Parents may subscribe to such services to manage their children’s access to websites and online services.”

Parental controls help to reduce the likelihood of the child viewing inappropriate web content. In addition to setting parental controls, it is critical to monitor children’s internet activity and use device settings that are appropriate for their age.

Most Internet-connected devices, including computers, smartphones, tablets, and gaming systems, have parental controls. Parental controls can help reduce your child’s exposure to inappropriate content while they are online.

Furthermore, search engines play a significant role in what we look at online, so it is critical to help manage the types of content your child may encounter when searching for something online. Most search engines provide free parental controls to assist parents. Since 2012, MDA has required local IASPs to inform subscribers and offer optional Internet parental control services when they sign up for or renew their residential broadband and mobile Internet subscriptions.

In addition, MDA collaborates closely with industry and community partners to reach out to students and parents. MDA, for example, supports the Media Literacy Council’s efforts to roll out programmes that promote media literacy, cyber wellness, and Internet safety among students and parents.

Given the dynamic and borderless nature of the Internet, Singapore cannot realistically block every website with undesirable content. It is equally important to teach the young here how to navigate the Internet safely. “This is why our schools conduct cyber wellness lessons for students, where students learn to identify and avoid inappropriate online content,” she said.

The Parliamentary Secretary for Communications and Information shared that the Media Literacy Council – a group of experts and professionals from various sectors – leads public education on media literacy and cyber wellness and has promoted safe and responsible online behaviour.

The MLC has generated resources and public education activities to encourage online users, including children, to exercise caution when viewing content on the internet. Based on MLC’s survey, its 2020 Better Internet Campaign had an awareness rate of 60% cent for educational tips on issues such as positive internet usage and digital footprint. While much has been done, there is still room for improvement and that the government will continue to build on previous efforts.

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