Parents must take the lead in curbing internet addiction, says expert

Bernama pic

PETALING JAYA: A cybersecurity expert says the best way for the government to curb internet addiction among youngsters is with the help of parents, amid reports that Putrajaya is considering limiting internet access for teenagers after midnight.

SL Rajesh told FMT it would be very difficult for Putrajaya to directly curb internet access and expect results.

He was commenting on reports of Deputy Health Minister Dr Lee Boon Chye saying the government was studying ways to limit post-midnight internet access among teenagers under 17, as is done in Japan and South Korea.

Rajesh said even though internet service providers could set landing pages requiring age or ID verification after midnight, these could be easily bypassed.

“Kids can easily enter their parents’ MyKad number or lie about the year they were born,” said Rajesh, who heads the computer forensics department of the International Association for Counterterrorism and Security Professionals Centre for Security Studies.

He also warned that it would be expensive and tedious to implement measures similar to those used by banks, where a code is sent via text message to a person’s phone.

He said the best option was for parents to control their children’s access to the internet.

“A lot of anti-virus software allows for the scheduling of internet usage time. There is also dedicated software for online time management where parents and schools can monitor each website visited in real time, and allow or block webpages based on preference.”

Rajesh said most software of this kind was user-friendly and could be used to block or filter internet access according to schedules and preference.

“It is also quite reasonably priced and can cost less than RM1 per day,” he said. “Although there are videos which can teach kids how to bypass these restrictions, there are additional features to prevent this.”

He added that such software would help parents gain insight into their children’s data activities.

National Parent-Teacher Association consultative council chairman Mohamad Ali Hassan meanwhile said the issue wasn’t just about how much time teenagers spent on their devices.

“The bigger question is how they use their time online. Even if you could limit access from midnight onwards, it would only strengthen their resolve to maximise their time online before midnight.”

Alternatively, he said, the government could restrict access to certain websites only while parents could ensure that their children did not download “non-beneficial” apps on their phones.

He said ideally, the use of phones and computers should be limited to common areas where parents can monitor their children.

However, he acknowledged that this was easier said than done.

“Nowadays, we see kids being allowed to use their phones even at the dining table, so parents must lay down some ground rules and set a good example themselves.”