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Digi’s children digital wellbeing survey: Increased screen time, reduced cyberbullying

Digi has announced the findings of its “Life Under COVID-19 for Children Online: Values & Challenges (2021)” survey which provides insights to the digital lives of youths during this pandemic. 

This marks Digi’s third Yellow Heart survey to uncover the experiences of young people in the areas of online safety, mental wellbeing and the cultivation of future skills. Alongside Sunway University as Digi’s research partner, the survey polled 1,746 students aged below 21 nationwide from August to September 2021. 

Digi’s Head of Sustainability, Philip Ling, said that the findings will guide Digi’s future initiatives to improve youths’ digital wellbeing as digital use remains a mainstay in their lives. 

“As a digital service provider, Digi has a responsibility to identify digital risks and dangers that children may be facing online and safeguard them. This survey provides opportunities to nurture future skills and curate more programmes on children capacity building in hopes of improving their digital resilience and in enabling digital inclusion,” said Philip. 

Survey uncovers how children are spending more time online
The survey highlighted that 71% of children had more screen time since the pandemic, with 89% of children using smartphones to go online while 36% of respondents used a laptop and only 22% used a desktop computer.

Younger respondents have reported that they spent most of their time e-learning while older children above 12 started spending more time surfing social media and video streaming platforms to feel connected to their friends and the latest trends.

Higher awareness of cyberbullying and a decrease in incidents

While 61% of the respondents agreed that cyberbullying is still a big issue faced, the survey showed that online bullying decreased slightly – 8% experienced cyberbullying before the pandemic, but only 5% said they were cyberbullied since the pandemic started. 50% from this group, reported that they faced online bullying at least once a week, mainly from social media and messaging platforms.

Only 42% of the respondents said that they received some form of guidance in protecting themselves from online bullying, mainly from parents, guardians or from school-run initiatives. Meanwhile, 80% of children under 10 reported that they have not received any form of cyberbullying protection training. This emphasises the need for greater collaboration by the government, industry,  guardians, educators and parents to scale initiatives to better safeguard young children against online risks. 

Mental wellbeing of children in the pandemic
While the survey reported that overall Malaysian schoolchildren appreciated the additional family time during this pandemic, negative sentiments still persist as most children miss socialising with their friends in school, especially older children and those in the East Coast and East Malaysia’s rural areas. 

46% of respondents were actively learning new things online through platforms such as YouTube and through online classes, though they indicated that these classes can be shorter and more productive to promote healthier physical and mental health among schoolchildren. 

In addition, when asked about how they felt throughout the pandemic in general, almost half of the respondents indicated being unable to experience positivity in life, with 44% experiencing mild to extremely severe perceived depressive symptoms, as defined according to the Depression Anxiety Stress Scale (DASS). 

Strengthening its commitment in enhancing children’s digital wellbeing

Philip said, “The findings highlight the need for more collaborations with like-minded parties to create a more conducive, safe and healthy digital environment for our children. As we continue this advocacy, we welcome more partners to join us to maximise the positive impact for society.”   

Digi has been championing digital resilience and safer internet for all for the past decade through its flagship Safe Internet programme, empowering Malaysians with skills for an accelerated digital future. Other Yellow Heart efforts include a one-stop resource for safety tools and educational materials (www.safeinternet.my), and the Future Skills For All initiative which enriches the education experience for schoolchildren through the development of digitised learning modules. 

For more information on Digi’s Yellow Heart initiatives, visit https://www.digi.com.my/sustainability-yellow-heart.

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