When these teenage friends heard of dtac’s Young Safe Internet Leader Camp, they immediately knew they could contribute. Although they come from three different schools, they bonded at a tutorial school. And unfortunately, one thing they had in common is the experience of bullying.
This is an all too common problem in Thailand. Surveys indicate about 90 percent of students have experienced physical or verbal abuse. dtac thus joined hands with the Digital Economy Promotion Agency (DEPA) and the Thai Media Fund to organize an online camp where young participants opportunities can develop their ideas to make the internet a safer place for youth.
To better understand Thailand’s Gen Zs, dtacblog met 18-year-old Thitapron” Film “ Mangkang ,18-year-old Saharath “Fluke” Suwannawong and 17-year-old Thanyaluck “Fon” Srirattanai from the Triamudomsuksa Pattanakarn Nonthaburi School; 17-year-old Tanaree “Friend” Prasertdee from the Kasintorn Saint Peter School, and 18-year-old Napat “Totti” Somjaree from the Debsirin Nonthaburi School.
Cyberbullying: No Minor Issue
The team joined the YSCL 2.0 camp with the project of creating a chatbot named “Ob Oon” (warmth). Their intent was for the chatbot to listen to students suffering from bullying and provide them with advice.
“Before we joined the camp, we had only very basic coding skills. We got to study how to recognize fake news, developed a better understanding of sexual diversity, and studied how to build an AI-powered chatbot,” said Fluke.
dtac’s focus on educating children on sexual diversity stems from research that LBTQ students represent about 50 percent of bullied kids.
“With our new skills, we were able to build a simple but effective chatbot with dialogue flow. As we developed our problem-solving skills and a focus on the systematic exploration of solutions, Ob Oon grew into a function chatbot running on the popular messaging app, LINE,” Fluke added.
The camp features 12 lessons, each of which lasts roughly a half day.
FabCafe is a creative collaboration space where experience and budding “makers” can meet. They are among the experts that dtac pulls together to make the camp an enriching experience.
“Exposure to unfamiliar topics like fake news or data visualization proved so relevant to our projects. It equipped us with the skills to explain our data with easy-to-understand charts,” Totti said.
Status: Born with Mobile Phones
All members of the “If You Are Bullied, We Are Friends” said mobile phones are part of their lives. During the day, they use mobile phones for communications and news updates. They also browse internet with their mobile phone. They turn to Facebook to maintain ties with friends, Instagram to monitor their favorite celebrities or friends and Twitter to stay up to date about latest news. They disclose that they have hardly ever watch TV. And dtac’s research confirms that mobile penetration is nearly 90 percent among teenagers.
“Growing up with technology means we get greater opportunities and convenience in getting information. But at the same time, it means we are heavily exposed to online risks like cyberbullying, fake news and violent content. Dgital resilience is now a critical skill for all youth.” Friend said.
Hope: Bridging the Educational Inequality Gap
The team also expressed their concerns over educational inequality. They are aware that not all schools are equipped in the same way and that there are gaps between urban and rural students.
“During the COVID-19 lockdown, educational inequality became a hot topic on Twitter. Many of my friends are in the provinces. The lockdown required online learning. But they did not have a computer or a tablet. Internet services have not yet reached some areas. Online classes were not well-prepared either because the change to online mode was so sudden. Problems that arose clearly underline inequality. They are structural problems that must be addressed at policymakers’ level,” Film said.
Asked if how they expect for a better future in the society, they said they want to see a peaceful and happy society. Social responsibility and respect are core values of their generation. Regarding internet usage, they also wish to see an end to cyberbullying. This all bodes well for the future of the internet in Thailand!
The curriculum developed by dtac, DEPA and the Thai Media Fund is available at https://learn.safeinternet.camp/