Parliament: Getting students to speak up about online behaviour using real-life scenarios

Ms Rozaina Rusli, New Town Secondary School's head of department for student welfare, guiding Secondary 2 student Muhammad Izz Danial (right) during a mock-up of an enhanced cyber wellness lesson on cyber bullying on Feb 25, 2020. ST PHOTO: GAVIN FOO

SINGAPORE - A class of about 30 students from New Town Secondary School gathered last Tuesday (Feb 25) to watch a video about cyber bullying.

At various points, their teacher paused the video, asking them what they would do and getting them to place their votes for different actions.

The video portrays a group of schoolmates, one of whom is being bullied online and offline by another character and her friends, while a mutual friend mulls over what he should do.

In class, the teacher showed the Secondary 2 students various scenarios that play out, and probed them to think. They raised their hands, spoke their minds and laughed as they shared their thoughts.

This is an example of a cyber wellness class that is on trial this year at several secondary schools, as part of a new character and citizenship education curriculum, said Education Minister Ong Ye Kung said on Wednesday (March 4).

"To me, the lesson that day was quite clear: If you encounter cyber bullying, seek help and support, don't retaliate," he said.

"This is one way we are using more authentic scenarios, immersive modalities, and giving students' more voice and agency to bring CCE to life," he added.

Ms Rozaina Rusli, New Town Secondary's head of department for student welfare, said the class was meant to encourage students to be a positive influence for one another, and to have the courage to take action and seek help when necessary.

While the school already had its own cyber wellness efforts, Ms Rozaina said the video helped to elicit students' responses.

"The video is almost like a drama or a game, and it feels real to the students because they can choose their actions and be immersed in it," she said.

To encourage students to look out for one another, New Town Secondary has since 2017 also appointed peer support leaders. Each class now has at least two such leaders, and they are trained to spot friends in distress, listen to their problems and empathise with them.

Remote video URL

Ms Rozaina said the peer support leaders have since surfaced to the school several cases of students who need further help. Issues include stress related to studies, friendship and family problems, as well as anger management.

Students said they prefer to confide in their friends instead of adults.

Peer support leader Lim Tay Peng, 15, said: "Sometimes, teachers or parents will tell us to just focus on our studies, but friends understand how we feel so it is more comforting."

The Secondary 4 student said that cyber bullying and the fear of being judged or being made fun of are some of the issues that teenagers face.

"When I know my friends need help, I text or call them to make sure they are OK, share with them my past experiences, and check in on them more frequently," she said.

Another Secondary 4 peer support leader Bram Agil said listening is one of the most helpful ways of supporting her peers.

"People feel better when they rant their problems instead of keeping it all to themselves. It relieves their stress," said the 15-year-old.

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