One-stop platform to help youth grappling with cyber issues such as online bullying and addiction

Help123, Singapore's first one-stop portal for youth cyber concerns, was launched on Wednesday (July 12).
Help123, Singapore's first one-stop portal for youth cyber concerns, was launched on Wednesday (July 12). PHOTO: THE NEW PAPER

SINGAPORE - Youngsters grappling with challenges such as cyber bullying and excessive Internet use now have a new platform to turn to for help.

They, their family members and educators can interact with trained counsellors via web chat, phone or e-mail, after going to Help123, Singapore's first one-stop portal for youth cyber concerns. It was initiated by the National Council of Social Service. Telco SingTel is a strategic partner.

A youth advisory panel of 13 people aged between 12 and 18 years old was also formed, so as to suggest features for Help123.

The public can visit www.help123.sg for more information.

The platform was launched Wednesday (July 12) by Second Minister for Home Affairs and National Development Desmond Lee at a biennial symposium, Conversations On Youth, at the Singapore Expo.

Said Mr Lee: "The idea is that through Help123, individuals will have easier access to information on cyber issues, be better supported emotionally, and have tighter link ups with existing community resources for follow-up intervention on specific needs and issues."

"Preventive work must be our first line of defence"

Help123 would be one way to "tackle cyber risks upstream", he added.

Also launched at the symposium is a new National Youth Work Competency Framework, which aims to set the benchmark for capacity and capability building of youth workers.

It aims to determine what knowledge and skills youth workers need to complete their jobs effectively, establish competency-based training and guide career progression.

A learning and development roadmap is being developed to help youth workers gain relevant skills.

The event drew more than 700 participants from schools, government and law enforcement agencies, and voluntary welfare organisations.

Besides cyber issues, Mr Lee spoke at length about the use of drugs among youth.

Referring to some of the challenges Singapore faces in its fight against drugs, he cited the island's proximity to the Golden Triangle (the second-largest source of opium in the world) and its role as a transport hub which make it vulnerable to regional drug developments.

Nearly half of all drug abusers arrested last year (2016) were below the age of 30, up from previous years. These young drug abusers were better educated, with some having good jobs and coming from middle or upper income families.

Online drug peddling was another problem, he said, noting that the number of people arrested for buying drugs and drug-related paraphernalia online has increased from 30 in 2015 to 201 last year.

Most of those arrested were aged 20 to 39 and were typically tech-savvy individuals familiar with online transactions.