With OnlyFans, drug emoji lingo trends Malaysian mums admit not easy raising kids in today’s world
KUALA LUMPUR, May 14 — The saying “it takes a village to raise a child” may have never had a more literal meaning to some mothers than in today’s world.
Technology has brought many benefits, but also uphill challenges to modern-day mothers who prefer to keep their little ones under close watch.
Smartphones, seamless connectivity and social media have exposed children more than ever before with various content and trends flooding social media from across the world at lightning speed.
While some mothers may think they are fully aware of the latest online trends or platforms, they still lag far behind their children who often tend to get hooked easily on things that may not be in their best interest.
Bukit Aman recently released an eye-opening report revealing that on average, one in three children in Malaysia under 18 have become a victim of online sexual predators.
The report cited social media exposure as the main cause of the increase in child sexual crimes in the last five years.
To better understand the modern-day mothering challenges, Malay Mail reached out to Malaysian mothers with young children and asked how they stay ahead of their kids when it comes to new trends that may be a threat.
Raising Gen Z children
Dr Aizura Syafinaz Ahmad Adlan spun a new term to describe her children’s generation.
She calls it the “Gen Zombie” group.
Dr Aizura has three children aged 10, 14 and 18, who fall into the Generation Z group.
The Oxford dictionary define Gen Z as the group of people who were born between the late 1990s and the early 2010s, who are regarded as being well-versed with the internet.
The 48-year-old obstetrics and gynaecologist who also teaches university students, teasingly said she always wondered why this group was so quiet and blurred like zombies even before she realised that they belonged to the Gen Z group.
“I always wondered why these kids are always so quiet and never answer questions.”
Dr Aizura said although she has given her children the space to have discussions about anything with her, she still finds herself a typical Asian mother with sets of rules that cannot be compromised.
“I may not be as strict as my parents or grandparents in their time but there are certain areas that I still draw the line.
“For example, I should know about anything that’s going on in the house and there’s no such a thing as my children having a private space in their bedroom where I shouldn’t enter.”
Dr Aizura said she would allow her children to discuss porn with her to address their curiosity, but objects to having such discussions with their friends.
“I would rather be the person explaining it to them than they venture on their own and get into trouble.”
She said the challenge nowadays is understand that this generation knows more than their age due to their exposure to the outside world.
Meanwhile, mother-of-two Harsharanjit Kaur said the biggest challenge for her while raising her 12- and 16-year-old daughters is keeping tabs on their gadgets and social media.
The 40-year-old primary school teacher said the Covid-19 pandemic and lockdowns increased children’s dependency on smart devices and eventually exposed them to Instagram, TikTok and other social platforms.
“On social media, the kids often get connected with strangers and that’s where the problem starts.”
Tung An Gie, on the other hand, said she noticed some behavioural change in her only child who is now 15.
“I noticed he changed quite a lot in terms of emotional volatility and wants me to respect his opinions.
“He also seeks more independence and also sometimes questions my authority over him.”
The 41-year-old single mother said she has noticed that her son often tests the water to see how far he can go with making his own decisions.
“I have created an environment for him to be able to voice out his feelings to me.
“He may not agree with me all the time, but I’m constantly learning how to deal with him.”
Tung, who is an academic, said not all women may know how to be a mother.
“We were not born to be a mother so it’s a learning curve for us.”
The three mothers agreed that there are just too many new trends and platforms online that are difficult for them to keep up with let alone be ahead of their children.
Harsharanjit said she is aware of platforms like the adult subscription site, OnlyFans where people can subscribe to their favourite model’s account and view their sexually explicit content.
However, the mothers were quite stunned when they heard about trends such as revenge porn or the emoji lingo to trade drugs.
The Selangor police revealed in 2020 that they received a total of 180 extortion reports, including the spread of revenge porn and nude videos without the victim’s consent that year.
‘Revenge porn’ is often used as retaliation or blackmail material by a current or former partner or friend.
Meanwhile, there’s also a new trend in the West whereby teenagers use emoji lingo to purchase drugs.
The US Drug Enforcement Administration released a parental guide to interpreting the commonly-used emoji drug codes using available emoji symbols repurposed for drug deals.
Harsharanjit said although she has heard about revenge porn and emoji lingo trends, it is important for her to further understand such issues to be able to monitor her children.
“It’s all about us monitoring the kids and constantly communicating with them.
“Most kids nowadays are in various WhatsApp or Telegram groups where they communicate with their friends, and if we don’t monitor their devices we wouldn’t know what’s happening between them.”
Being a school teacher, Harsharanjit said she deals a lot with children and a common problem she has noticed is that many parents give their kids 100% trust in whatever they do.
“Some of these parents tend not to pay enough attention to their children and their gadgets due to their busy schedule.”
Harsharanjit said school children may easily purchase vape or engage in improper activities in WhatsApp groups right under their parent’s noses.
“They may be at home sitting next to their parents but engage in these types of activities on their phones.
“Therefore, it’s important for the parents to conduct checks on their children’s devices.”
Dr Aizura, on the other hand, said she hardly conducts such checks on her children’s devices mainly because she has moulded her kids in a way to discuss anything openly with her.
“I feel it’s best to address any issues with a conversation.
“Because once it’s discussed, it becomes a habit for them to come to you when they have a question.”
She said some parents may be too strict with their kids when it comes to watching a kissing scene or X-rated scene.
“But the reality is, if they don’t watch it with you, they will watch it with somebody else.
“The curiosity is there and it’s best if it’s addressed by me as their mother so that I can draw the line for them.”
Unlike some mothers who use parental control apps to check on their children’s mobile devices, Tung’s case seems to be the reverse.
With her son more well-versed with technology than her, he is the one controlling her mother’s social media in terms of data privacy and protection.
“There is no point for me to install such apps on his phone because he knows how to block me.”
However, Tung said she often has conversations with her son about the type of inappropriate content or dark web that he has to avoid when he surfs the internet.
“I’m just worried that one day he may outsmart me and hide all sorts of things from me.
“But I try to overcome that by having more conversations with him.”
Keeping a close watch
While the emergence of new trends and platforms may be unavoidable, the parents agreed that the only way to protect their children is by keeping a close watch on them through various ways.
Harsharanjit said she has allowed her children to go on social media but they must follow the house rules.
According to her, the children know that at 10pm the phones must be handed to the mother and can only get them back the next morning.
“I conduct checks on the phones, their messages and social media accounts to ensure they don’t engage in any improper activities.
“If I come across anything questionable, then I’ll have a conversation with them and try to indirectly alert them.”
Harsharanjit said she never scolds her children but believes in open conversations to maintain the trust and relationship with her daughters.
She said her school conducts various talks by various relevant authorities such as the police and narcotic department frequently to educate the students about potential threats they may face.
“The parents should do their part by looking after their children and constantly keeping up with new trends that might harm little ones.
“It takes two to tango.”
For Dr Aizura, the dinner table is the place where open discussions take place with her children.
“I usually have a discussion with them over dinner whenever I learn about some new issues that I find important to bring up with my kids.
“It is my way of making my children understand that mama knows more so you don’t try to mess around with these types of things.”
Dr Aizura said she also controls her children’s pocket money to make sure they are dependent on her and can’t explore many things on their own.
Tung, however, has a different style of disciplining her child by deliberately making him learn from his mistakes.
She said there were instances where she knew her son was going to be scammed and she allowed it so that he could learn the hard way.
“He once told me that he met somebody online and the person asked to borrow money from him.
“Since the amount wasn’t big I allowed him to transfer via his e-wallet so that he learns not to simply lend money to strangers.”
Tung said it turned out to be a scammer and her son never got back the money.
“He learned the hard way and now he knows he can’t simply trust anyone.
“It’s okay to sacrifice a small amount now rather than making a big loss later on when he goes out to the real world.”