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Tackling online bullying in Malaysia: Microsoft study

AvantiKumar | Aug. 15, 2012
One in three Malaysian children say they have been bullied online, show findings of new global study discussed by Malaysian parents action groups and concerned experts.

Microsoft holds roundtable in Kuala Lumpur to discuss cyberbullying

PHOTO - (from left) Dr Nurulwafa Bt. Hussain, psychiatrist and Fellow in Child and Adolescent Psychiatry, Selayang Hospital; Zuhairah Ali, president of the National Association of Gifted Children Malaysia and member of Parents Action Group for Education (PAGE); Tunku Munawirah Putra, honorary secretary of Parents Action Group for Education (PAGE); Jasmine Begum, director of corporate affairs, Malaysia and New Markets, Microsoft Malaysia; Datin Noor Azimah, president of the Parents Action Group for Education (PAGE); and Dr Abdul Kadir Abu Bakar, president of Malaysian Psychiatric Association (MPA).


Following the release of Microsoft's global survey on youth online behaviour, which showed that 33 percent of Malaysian children say they have been bullied online, the software giant held a roundtable attended by local action groups and experts and also released two online resources to tackle the trend.

"Online bullying is a real challenge and a serious issue globally, and Malaysia is not exempted from this fact," said Microsoft Malaysia director of corporate affairs, Malaysia & new markets, Jasmine Begum, speaking on 9 August 2012.

"At Microsoft, our approach to online safety fosters digital citizenship by advocating digital literacy, ethics, and etiquette," said Begum. "We empower parents, caregivers, and educators with the right tools and resources to help them talk to kids about online safety."

She said Microsoft urged parents to help their children stand up to online bullying. The new Global Youth Online Behaviour Survey, conducted from 11 January to 19 February 2012, surveyed 7,600 children in 25 countries, from age eight to 17, and focused on how children treated one another online and whether parents were addressing online behaviours.

In Malaysia, the survey further revealed that 38 percent of Malaysian respondents were very or somewhat worried about online bullying while only 27 percent of parents talked about online risks with their children, she said. "Globally, the findings continued to be worrisome with more than half (54 percent) of children globally worrying about being bullied online."

Begum said other key findings showed that:

- Four in 10 children surveyed (ages eight to 17) say they have experienced what adults might consider as online bullying.
- 24 percent of children surveyed say they have done something parents would consider as online bullying.
- Five percent of parents engage with their children's school about online bullying, according to the children surveyed.

The full Global Youth Online Behaviour Survey with the complete list of individual executive summaries for each country is available at

Parents, educators concerned about role of technology

Begum said that another insight from the Malaysian survey was that children want to talk to parents about the issue, but only 27 percent of parents have talked to their kids about protecting themselves online. In addition, according to the youth who were surveyed in Malaysia, only four percent of schools they attend have formal policies that address online bullying."

The Malaysian survey also revealed that only 18 percent of parents teach their kids online manners (significantly below the 25 country average of 39 percent), and only 13 percent of parents ask their kids if they've been bullied online (as compared to 30 percent from the 25 country average), she said.

The president of the Parents Action Group for Education (PAGE), Datin Noor Azimah said she was concerned about the lack of formal policies and that children were being exposed to technology at a very young age.

"This may precipitate a technological gap where parents and educators cannot fill, without proper training," said Noor Azimah. "Including formal school policies on online bullying may help fill this gap, and at the same time, provide an avenue for parents, teachers and children to understand and curb online bullying."

Teaching kids to be good digital citizens is one way to drive positive upstander behaviour and instill strong ethics and online etiquette, said Microsoft's Begum. "Microsoft also partners with organisations like iKeepSafe, iLookBothWays and the Anti-Defamation League to provide professional development for teachers and school staff with courses in online bullying."

Malaysian parents behind in online monitoring

Begum added that the Malaysian survey showed that only 30 percent of parents monitor their children's use of the computer (compared to 44 percent for the 25 country average).

Honorary secretary of PAGE, Tunku Munawirah Putra, said: "Unmonitored Internet use may place adolescents at significant risk such as online bullying, unwanted exposure to pornography, and potentially revealing personal information to sexual predators. Parental supervision is a key protective factor against adolescent risk-taking behaviour."

"Children need an avenue to discuss distressing issues like online bullying to an authority figure," said Malaysian Psychiatric Association (MPA) president, Dr Abdul Kadir Abu Bakar. "They need to feel safe and reassured when faced with mentally exhausting situations like these."

"When avenues like these are unavailable, children may take matters into their own hands and with inexperience, handle the situation inappropriately, which can lead to many psychological and mental problems in the future," said Abdul Kadir. "It is therefore imperative that parents embark on a more proactive role in monitoring their children's behavior, especially online."

Microsoft's two additional resources:
- Stand Up To Online Bullying quiz, which can be downloaded onto a school's website. (

- Digital Citizenship in Action toolkit to guide users on responsible use of technology. ( 


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