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Self-Improvement & Hobbies

Alarm over popular Facebook group

Members as young as 10 post risque photos and ask others to rate them.
The Straits Times - October 23, 2012
By: Derrick Ho And Melody Zaccheus
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Alarm over popular Facebook group The Facebook group, believed to have been started by an Owen Lee five months ago, has drawn more than half a million members from Singapore and overseas, many of whom are students. -- PHOTOS: FACEBOOK

SOME Singaporeans as young as primary-school-going age are posting risque photos of themselves on a Facebook group.

It does not stop there. They are also inviting people - even strangers - to rate their looks on a scale of 1 to 10.

Some even offer personal contact details to the last individual rating their photos.

"Rate me maybe? Last comment will be my text buddy," wrote a girl who calls herself Vivian Tan and who looks no older than 10 in her self-taken shot.

The Facebook group, called "Add anyone you know 2 this group! Beat the most member group on FB! Come on!!!!!", has more than half a million members, many of whom are students.

The group, believed to have been started by an Owen Lee about five months ago, has members from overseas too. Apart from photos, members also put up posts, including rants and job ads.

The Facebook group has raised concerns among parents and social media experts because it might become fertile ground for sexual predators.

Ms Tee Shan Shan, a senior psychologist with Thomson Paediatric Centre, said many members are unaware they may be compromising their safety and privacy.

Some Singapore members claim to be as young as 10, while others are from junior colleges and higher-education institutes.

However, they seem unperturbed, going by what they tell The Straits Times.

Edwin Goh, 16, said posting photos of himself is just "a way to make friends and allow people to know you better".

Jeff Ng, 13, who posted a photo of himself in June, said he did it out of boredom. "I do it for fun. I don't really care about the ratings they give," he added. But he admitted he felt happy when some called him handsome.

 

The Secondary 1 student even posted his mobile phone number on the group. Asked if he could be targeted by cyber-predators, he said he was not concerned since he did not state his home address.

"If people call or message me, I can just ignore it," he added.

Apart from cyber-predators, another danger is cyber-bullying, said Dr Lim Sun Sun, an associate professor at the department of communications and new media at the National University of Singapore.

"Young children may find such feedback demoralising, and may not have the resilience and emotional maturity to cope with it or shrug it off," she added.

She believes many who participate in the group do so out of peer pressure. She said: "Others may suffer from esteem issues and are seeking endorsement and affirmation."

Experts also raised the issue of underage Facebook users. The site requires users to be 13 or older but "anyone can enter false information into their account", said Singapore Management University social media specialist Michael Netzley.

As the number of users grows, policing underage users becomes impossible, he added.

There are about one billion active Facebook users worldwide.

Ultimately, parents have to be the ones supervising how their children use social media, he said, even as there are initiatives, such as those run by the Education Ministry, to teach students about cyber-wellness.

Parents, however, said they struggle to police their children's social media activities. "It's difficult to stop them. The more you try, the more curious they get," said Madam Lee Wei Yin, 51, a part-time tutor who has three children, aged 19, 17 and 15.

Property agent Choo Soo Hwee, 41, said she will not let her nine-year-old son open a Facebook account despite his repeated requests.

"I don't think he's that mature yet. He may not like it, but it's for his own good."

What parents can do to help

PARENTS play an important role in guiding and socialising their children, said Mr Edmund Tay, a youth pastor and parent blogger who sits on the Media Literacy Council.

They should:

  • Set ground rules regarding their children's social media usage, including how much time they may spend online.
  • Advise them to set their profiles to private and educate them on the dangers of interacting with and meeting strangers.
  • Spend more time with their children so that they will feel less compelled to seek affirmation from online sources.
  • Activate Facebook's Report Abuse feature to bar young children from groups that could pose a risk.
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