Children here spend more time online than global average: Poll

Children in Singapore spend more time online compared with those in other countries, a new study has found, as they are glued to their screens for 35 hours a week - three hours more than the global average.

Those who own their own mobile phones spend significantly more time online, with an average of 45 hours a week.

This is according to the inaugural Global DQ Index Report released yesterday, which examines the online habits of children aged eight to 12 as well as the risks they face, such as cyber bullying, gaming addiction, offline meetings and online sexual behaviour.

The report, produced by global think-tank Digital Quotient Institute, surveyed 38,000 children in 29 countries, including highly connected ones such as Japan and South Korea, in the second half of last year.

The combination of children having their own mobile phones and ready access to the Internet has made them more vulnerable to online risks, according to the report.

In Singapore, more than half of the 3,600 young digital natives aged between eight and 12 who were surveyed said they have experienced unsavoury behaviour online.

According to the report, 43 per cent of those polled here said they have been victims of cyber bullying in the past year, while 16 per cent have come into contact with sexual content either through websites or online conversations with strangers.

Video game addiction is also a risk for these children, as 11 per cent of those surveyed met the addiction criteria, such as feeling restless when not gaming.

Twelve per cent of those polled have chatted with and met online strangers in real life.

The report also showed that Singaporean children spent most of their time online watching videos and playing online games, followed by using social media apps such as WhatsApp and Instagram.

Those who own a mobile phone and are active on social media have their exposure to online risks increased to 70 per cent, compared with 45 per cent for those who do not have their own phones.

Speaking at the launch of a digital literacy guidebook for parents yesterday, Digital Quotient Institute founder Yuhyun Park said: "A lot of times, parents are concerned about their children's device use but feel powerless. They don't feel like they can talk about digital topics because their children are better at them than they are."

The guidebook, released in collaboration with Singapore's Media Literacy Council, gives parents concrete tips on talking to their children about digital topics and managing their time online.

The institute aims to work with parents and teachers to help children gain awareness and skills to protect themselves while online.

It has partnered telco Singtel to provide free online education tools that are expected to roll out in all primary schools this year.

A version of this article appeared in the print edition of The Straits Times on February 07, 2018, with the headline 'Children here spend more time online than global average: Poll'. Print Edition | Subscribe