One-stop platform to help youth on cyber concerns

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

Help123, Singapore's first one-stop platform for youth cyber concerns, will be able to link up young people, their family members and teachers, via Web chat, phone or e-mail, with trained counsellors.

Help123, run by Fei Yue Community Services and Touch Community Services, was initiated by the National Council of Social Service. Funding came from Singtel and a Care and Share matching grant.

A youth advisory panel was also formed to suggest features for the platform.

It was launched yesterday by Second Minister for Home Affairs and National Development Desmond Lee at a biennial symposium, Conversations On Youth, at the Singapore Expo.

Counsellors manning Help123 will refer those who need more help to community support services such as counselling.

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. Preventive work must be our first line of defence."

Also launched was a new National Youth Work Competency Framework which would "articulate knowledge and skills that can support youth work to be more effective", and map career progression pathways and training, Mr Lee said.

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

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

On another matter, regarding challenges in the fight against drugs, Mr Lee cited Singapore'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 were below 30 years old, up from previous years.

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.

Response to the idea of Help123 has been positive so far.

One 15-year-old who used to receive counselling for his online gaming addiction - playing 10 to 12 hours a day as a way of relieving stress - welcomed the initiative's Web chat platform. "Messaging is easier because some people are quite shy to say things face to face."

Jonathan, 17, who has sought help for mental health issues through online platforms, said a platform for cyber issues could give people more time to get comfortable and "slowly open up".

Reach Community Services Society's assistant senior social worker Derrick Lau, 42, welcomed the new platform, but said youth might need some nudging from youth agencies before using it.

A version of this article appeared in the print edition of The Straits Times on July 13, 2017, with the headline 'One-stop platform to help youth on cyber concerns'. Print Edition | Subscribe