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  • Kyle Chua

Singapore Schools Teach Students How To Respond To Being “Cancelled”

Let’s face it, social media has become so ubiquitous in our lives that we sometimes let it take control of our perceptions – so much so that we put our mental health and wellbeing at risk every time we go online, with how hate and negativity have thrived in the platforms we use.

Minister of State for Education Sun Xueling (right) observes students discussing how they would respond to negative comments online. Credit: Ng Sor Luan via The Straits Times

In response, the Ministry of Education extended the updated character and citizenship education (CCE) curriculum to upper secondary students this year, as CNA reports. It was first introduced to lower secondary students in 2021, with the aim of promoting cyber wellness.

The curriculum looks to equip students with the management skills they’ll need to deal with situations wherein they have to respond to hateful comments or face getting “cancelled” online. And for the uninitiated, getting “cancelled” essentially means being shamed or ostracised to the extent that one loses public support, both in a social and professional sense.

During the lessons, teachers facilitate class discussions, bringing up realistic and relatable scenarios and seeing how the students will respond when put in the same position.

For instance, in one of the lessons conducted for Secondary 4 students at Compassvale Secondary School, the students talked about what they would do if they were in the shoes of a particular TikTok influencer who received negative comments online. The class reportedly agreed that they would reply to a negative comment with a positive one. They’re then asked how they felt about the comments and how they would further respond if their positivity would only be met with more negativity.

Mdm Wan, a specialised CCE teacher at the school, observed how the students were surprised that they would receive backlash from leaving a positive comment. She then posed the question, “did you regret choosing the positive comment?”

“And we were really pleased to note that they said that even though they received negative comments and all that, they stood by what they believed in and they would still continue to have that positive impact on the cyber community,” she said.

Credit: Ng Sor Luan via The Straits Times

Mdm Wan also said that the students were “very candid and open” about sharing their feelings and experiences in the discussion, adding how their attitude towards the lessons greatly help now that they’re spending more time online.

What’s important, according to the Minister of State for Education Sun Xueling, is that the students are able to properly process their emotions and that there’s a support system available to them in case they need further help.

Even before the pandemic, Southeast Asian nations have already been talking about helping boost the cyber wellness of today’s internet-using youth. For example, the ASEAN-Japan Media and Information Literacy for the Youth Project was launched in 2018, with one of its goals being to protect the youth online.

These campaigns are now more important than ever as we continue to learn about the potential harms social media causes to the health of the youth. Facebook whistleblower Frances Haugen last year, citing internal documents, said that the use of Instagram contributed to teens developing unhealthy behaviours like addictions, suicidal thoughts and eating disorders.

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