The Digital Economy and Society Ministry and DTAC have joined hands to set up a collaborative framework to fight cyberbullying. According to a 2017 survey from the National Statistical Office (NSO), 15- to 24-year-olds, had the highest Internet penetration rate at 89.8 per cent.
Thai people in general are heavy users of social media, including 47 million Facebook accounts, 41 million Line accounts, 11 million Instagram accounts and 9 million Twitter accounts.
The heavy use has implications for social-media use among teenagers, who may have lower levels of digital literacy and high potential to be victimised.
Pichet Durongkaveroj, the minister of Digital Economy and Society, said his ministry recognises the double-edged sword that comes with the use of digital technology, including inappropriate use by children that can result in a vast variety of online problems.
Recently, the ministry organised a seminar on anti-cyberbullying programmes, allowing stakeholders to offer their comments, which the ministry can then feed into developing and updating the national Internet policy. “This public-private partnership has marked the year of integration between the government and stakeholders to take action against cyberbullying and it’s a good start to jointly address social problems,” said Pichet.
Anti-cyberbullying is one government strategy to promote children’s right to safely use online media through building digital literacy.
The collaborative framework covers five areas. First, the ministry will coordinate with other government agencies to create an effective system of referral to the Technology Crime Suppression Division for cyberbullying victims in the event of cybercrime-related cases.
Second, the ministry will extend the use of the Stop Bullying Chat Line developed by DTAC through its digitally connected communities nationwide. Third, the ministry will educate about safe Internet use in school activities through young ambassadors.
Fourth, the ministry and DTAC will jointly develop digital citizenship curriculum and circulate it to all schools nationwide via cooperation with the education ministry.
Last, the ministry will provide funding for Internet-related research in order to better understand safe Internet use and cyberbullying in Thailand. Lars Norling, chief executive officer at DTAC, said the mobile service provider has positioned itself as a child-friendly business in line with its business responsibilities. He said the company recognised its responsibilities and initiated a Safe Internet Programme in 2014 in a bid to promote a safe online environment for children.
DTAC’s child-friendly business strategy can be divided into four pillars – raise awareness of safe Internet use, integrate strategy in products and services to ensure that its products are safe, seek a child-friendly Internet ecosystem and drive safe Internet related regulations and policies. Last year, DTAC promoted safe Internet use to more than 27,000 students via school outreach activities. Norling said the Stop Bullying Chat Line had a soft launch last June with more than 40,000 views and 278 victims, reflecting the large scope of cyberbullying in Thailand.
“To address the problem sustainably, the company, the government, civic society or even intergovernmental organisations cannot do it alone. We need to join forces and reinforce community and government efforts to protect and fulfil children’s rights, including [a space free from] cyberbullying,” said Norling.
Charnvit Pornnoppadol, head of the Division of Child and Adolescent Psychiatry in the Faculty of Medicine, at Sirisaj hospital, Mahidol University, said Thai teenagers are highly addicted to the Internet, spending 4.8 hours daily online 4.8. The applications they use the most are YouTube, LINE and Facebook respectively.
One-third of Thai youth have experienced cyberbullying at least once, according to a report titled “The State of Cyberbullying in Thailand Among Youths at Mathayom 1-3”, produced in collaboration with 13 countries. Charnvit said people who become bullies often have a mental or emotional disorder. Online addiction behaviour is also associated with cyberbullying.
“Chatting with strangers both online and offline, letting people know personal data and posting their VDO clip online all referred to risky Internet behaviour [and] potentially lead to further cybercrimes including cyberbullying,” said Charnvit.
The solution requires stakeholders work together to promote a safe Internet culture, he said.