Parliament Sitting on 12 September 2022

QUESTION FOR WRITTEN ANSWER

46. Ms Tin Pei Ling: To ask the Minister for Communications and Information in view of the rise of the metaverse and growing number of youths on gaming platforms (a) whether there are sufficient measures implemented to protect our young; and (b) whether the Code of Practice for Online Safety will be extended to these platforms and be ready for the Web 3.0 era.

Answer:

1. In Singapore today, 99% of households with children under the age of 15 have access to computers. It is not surprising therefore that many youths have easy access to the internet and online gaming. As a result, they are also exposed to online risks, including cyberbullying, sexual harassment, sexual grooming or other inappropriate content.

2. Parents are understandably concerned about the ease and speed with which harmful online content can be disseminated, and the risk this poses to their children. The Government has put in place various measures to reduce the risks of online harms affecting our youths. The Infocomm Media Development Authority (IMDA) requires Internet Service Providers to offer optional residential and mobile Internet filtering services. This helps parents ensure that children have safer access to the Internet. 

3. Public education is especially critical for encouraging healthy gaming habits amongst youths and helping parents guide their children in navigating the online space. The Government undertakes public education programmes and works with various community partners to enhance digital safety for our youths.

4. In schools, MOE’s refreshed Character and Citizenship Education (CCE) curriculum teaches students the dangers of excessive online activities, including gaming, and other addictive behaviours. Beyond schools, the National Library Board’s (NLB) Source, Understand, Research and Evaluate (S.U.R.E) programme provides useful guidelines on safe and responsible online gaming and the Health Promotion Board’s MindSG online portal provides content that helps Singaporeans manage their mental health with a dedicated section on cyber wellness for teens.

5. Through the national Digital for Life (DfL) movement, we have worked with community partners to introduce programmes that enhance the overall digital well-being of children and youths. The Media Literacy Council (MLC) has also developed resources encouraging online users to exercise judgement on their consumption of online content and supported community projects such as Project Get Flamed!, which ran workshops for youths addressing online gaming addictions.  

6. These efforts can help reduce the risks of our youths being exposed to online harms, but they do not eliminate them completely.

7. Emergent digital technologies including the metaverse and Web 3.0, could also introduce new types of online risks by being more interactive, providing more immersive experiences or allowing for even greater anonymity. The risks may be compounded because activities are carried out in a decentralised way with no clear entity to be regulated.

8. Continued vigilance by the Government as well as parents, teachers, and youths themselves remain important.

9. As the Member noted, the Government will be introducing measures to enhance online safety, especially for young users. The proposed Code of Practice for Online Safety seeks to require social media services which have significant reach or impact to put in place systems and processes to mitigate exposure to harmful content for Singapore-based users. Gaming platforms are not the intended targets of regulations at present.

10. Nonetheless, we understand the concerns and have initiated a study to better understand the impact of gaming.  We will also monitor emergent technologies such as the metaverse and Web 3.0, and update our measures where necessary. In addition, we also encourage parents to take an active role in engaging and guiding the activities of their children, helping them cultivate healthy habits and personal responsibility.

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