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Singapore: Comprehensive Digital Safety for Children

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In an era where digital engagement is an integral part of everyday life, the safety of children on social media platforms has become a paramount concern. Recognising this, Singapore’s Minister for Communications and Information recently addressed Parliament on the government’s plans to introduce stricter regulations aimed at shielding children from potential addiction and harmful online content.

The Singapore Government places a high priority on protecting its citizens, especially children, from the perils of harmful online content and the risks of addiction. The Minister stressed that regulation plays a crucial role in this protective strategy. The government’s approach to online harms is targeted and specific, focusing on significant social media services (SMSs) operating within the country.

Under the Broadcasting Act, the Infocomm Media Development Authority (IMDA) has designated six major social media platforms with substantial reach or impact in Singapore. These platforms include Facebook, HardwareZone, Instagram, TikTok, X (formerly Twitter), and YouTube. These designated SMSs are mandated to adhere to the Code of Practice for Online Safety, which came into effect on 18 July 2023.

The Online Safety Code stipulates that these platforms must implement additional measures to bolster the safety of children online. This includes ensuring that children are not exposed to content detrimental to their physical or mental well-being, enforcing more restrictive account settings for younger users, and providing tools for children and their parents to manage online safety.

Designated SMSs are required to submit their first compliance reports by the end of July 2024. The IMDA will evaluate these reports to assess adherence to the Online Safety Code and determine whether further tightening of regulations is necessary. Age assurance remains a critical consideration in these evaluations. Although most major social media platforms require users to be at least 13 years old, the current reliance on self-declaration is insufficient. The government is exploring more robust age assurance methods to enhance protection for children online.

Excessive use of social media is another significant concern, linked to various mental health issues such as anxiety, depression, insomnia, and stress. These issues are often correlated with the duration, frequency, and number of social media platforms used. While the effectiveness of warning labels on social media platforms remains unclear, the government has adopted a more comprehensive strategy. This includes educational initiatives and providing stronger support to parents and children.

For parents suspecting that their children may have developed a dependency on social media, community service providers like TOUCH Community Services offer counselling and intervention programmes. Specialised services such as the National Addictions Management Service (NAMS) are also available for assessment and intervention.

The government recognises the importance of proactive measures and early education to prevent digital addiction. The Ministry of Health (MOH) and the Ministry of Social and Family Development (MSF) oversee key touchpoints for children up to six years old, including child and maternity care, and pre-schools. These ministries are committed to providing clearer and more definitive advice on device usage and screen time, ensuring consistent delivery across healthcare settings, and encouraging practical application in pre-schools and homes.

In the coming months, MOH and MSF will finalise and announce these initiatives, with the Ministry of Communications and Information collaborating to strengthen safeguards where feasible.

Singapore’s approach to digital safety for children is multifaceted, involving regulation, education, and community support. By targeting major social media platforms, implementing stringent safety codes, and providing robust support systems for families, the government aims to create a safer online environment for its youngest citizens. This comprehensive strategy not only addresses immediate concerns but also lays the groundwork for sustainable digital well-being in the future.


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