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NGO offers help for internet addicts

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James Tan speaks about the cyberwellness services TCS provides, in Singapore last week. Hor Kimsay

NGO offers help for internet addicts

Often children today don’t get as much exercise as they used to. Technology such as computers, smartphones and television can pull them away from outdoor activity.

TOUCH Community Services (TCS) – a Singapore-based charitable organisation – endeavours to understand the issues that youth and their families are facing, while implementing strategies and intervention methods to help restore balance in their lives. The Post’s Hor Kimsay talked to James Tan, CEO of TCS, about its work and the possibility of offerring the service in the Cambodian market.

Can you talk about TCS’s service and what made you decide to offer this service?
TCW has been at the forefront of the cyberwellness scene in Singapore since 2000, and is a pioneer in the field of cyberwellness education and counseling programs in Singapore. TCW focuses on promoting cyberwellness, healthy gaming and online safety.

As we entered the digital age, we noticed that excessive gaming was becoming an issue. With an increase in children being glued to their computers and playing computer and online games for hours on end, we decided that something needed to be done to tackle this issue.

Recent statistics have shown that Singapore has the highest mobile phone penetration rate, with nine out of 10 Singaporeans having access to a smartphone. The easy access to mobile devices have made the problem of excessive gaming an even bigger issue, compared to when TCW was started 17 years ago.

Your agency claims to help families grow together in the digital age. What does this mean?
The digital age affects not just the children but parents as well. If a youth faces cyberwellness issues, their parents and the relationship of the family at large would be affected too. TCW strives to understand the issues that each of our youth and their family face, and implement strategies and intervention methods to help restore balance in the lives of the youths and their families.

Is it a must for children to stay away from the internet?
It is not realistic nor practical to keep children away from cyberspace since the online world is very much a part of our lives now. The internet is a useful resource for research, information, and also helps us keep in touch with people we may not be able to meet face-to-face often.

At TCW, we are not against the use of the internet or online games. Instead, we encourage children to manage their daily priorities, practise good time management, and give main consideration to their school work and time with family and friends. We also encourage children to engage in a balanced online and offline lifestyle, and explore real-life interests and games outside of online activities.

What are some successes your service has seen?
Since TCW started in 2001, we have reached out to 340 schools and over 1.6 million youths, parents, educators and counsellors.

Our intervention and pre-school program has been critical in providing support to families to help their children and youth overcome gaming and internet addiction. Many of our clients who have gone through our intervention programs and counselling services have come back to be our volunteers.

Do you have any plans to expand your service outside Singapore to other Asean countries such as Cambodia?
We are able to provide our services to countries outside Singapore, including Cambodia. In fact, we have been providing cyberwellness education to international schools in Jakarta, Indonesia, and the Philippines. Our programs are customisable to meet the needs and objectives that overseas schools hope to achieve.

What difficulties do you anticipate should you start providing your service in Cambodia?
We would need to understand the internet use by the children and youths of the country better before we can offer targeted recommendations suitable for Cambodia.

As an NGO, we rely mainly on funding and donations to sustain operations. People in Cambodia may visit the TCW website at http://touchcyberwellness.org for more information. Schools or any agencies in Cambodia may also get in touch with us at [email protected] to discuss any partnership opportunities.

This interview has been edited for length and clarity.

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