92% played truant to visit cyber cafes

Deputy Prime Minister, Tan Sri Muhyiddin Yassin in a media report had stated that truancy and gangsterism among students can lead to very serious disciplinary problems and crime. Of late, cyber cafes are also mentioned as one of the contributors to negative behaviour among school children.

Cyber cafes give an opportunity for everyone to access computer and internet but unfortunately this facility is frequently misused. Young people have been found to use the internet for chatting, surf pornographic websites and play video games with violent and pornographic elements.

In mid August 2008, Deputy Minister of Housing and Local Government, Datuk Hamzah Zainuddin had stated that the Ministry has prepared a draft regulation on cyber cafes which is ready to be enforced.

Prior to this, the Ministry had issued a guideline on “Control of Cyber Business Centres and Cyber Cafés” which clarifies that the main activity or core business of the cyber cafés is limited to dissemination and retrieving information through the internet.

Other conditions stipulated in the guideline is to prohibit students in uniform to enter cyber cafes, operation time limited to 12 midnight and the premise should be open and brightly lit, besides prohibiting dark tinted glass windows.

Regrettably, enforcement of these guidelines is lacking and it is widely misused. The situation has become critical and before it becomes any worse, CAP urges the authorities to conduct an operation to curb misuse of cyber cafes and flouting of law all over the country.

To substantiate these claims, CAP had conducted a simple research by using a study titled “Cyber Café Facilities and Misconduct among Young People” by Zakiyah Jamaluddin from Universiti Malaya as reference. The study focusing Penang and Kedah, involving 230 respondents, from 11 to 18 year-olds, clearly showed that cyber cafes as a contributor to social problems amongst the young.

The findings from the simple survey of 230 respondents who frequent cyber cafes revealed that 180 respondents admit that they come from a family with problems. Whilst 160 respondents admitted to smoking and drinking alcohol and all respondents stated that cigarettes and alcohol are easily available in cyber cafes. Fifty-one respondents admitted of sniffing glue.

212 respondents or 92.1% stated that they had played truant from school to go to the cyber cafes and this simple survey also revealed that 161 respondents admitted of stealing money from parents and siblings and also lying to get money to fund their addiction to go to cyber cafes.

73% of respondents admitted spending time in cyber cafes is better that attending school and 27% of respondents felt that cyber cafes are much better than their own homes.

55% or 127 respondents admitted that they are addicted to playing video games with violent and pornographic elements whilst 34% or 78 respondents admitted addiction to surf pornographic web sites.

113 respondents stated that cyber cafes are their main choice when they skip school. Out of these 113 respondents, 45 respondents surf pornographic web sites, 23 respondents play video games with pornographic and violent elements and 45 respondents use cyber cafes as a meeting place and discuss crime activities for example burglary, snatch-theft and sexual crimes such as molesting.

From 45 respondents involved in crime activities, 35 respondents said that playing video games with violent and pornographic elements in the cyber cafes has boosted their confidence to engage in crime activities.

189 respondents or 82% admitted that cyber cafes are their main source for downloading pornographic video clips.

To handle the problem of truant students and loafing in cyber cafes is not only to formulate laws to not issue licenses for computer games in cyber cafes or for each cyber cafe to install software to disable pornographic and lewd websites but to not renew the licenses of cyber cafes.

The Education Ministry must establish cyber cafes in schools to introduce online learning concept in line with the RM288 million allocated under the Smart School Programme in the 2007 budget.

The proposal to amend by-laws under the Local Government Act 1976 (Act 171) in relation to issue of licence and imposition of conditions of cyber cafes, Police Act 1967 (Act 334) and Children’s Act 2001 (Act 611) seems merely to “cure” the impending problem whereas there are some cyber café operators who totally ignore the rules just to make profit.

Cyber café operators are aware that more users have internet connection at home and following this they are worried that their services are no longer needed. Thus, they are now offering other services such as video games, gambling, access to pornographic sites, especially for children and teenagers.

The “prevention” method which would be better is to revoke and not renew cyber café licences in stages. This would contribute to a better environment.

Emulate Indonesia’s action

The Malaysian Government should emulate the Indonesian parliament’s action that has approved the Electronic Information and Transaction law to prohibit entry of pornographic material through cyber world.

This means that after the law is gazetted by the Indonesian Parliament, the 230 million population with 26 million internet users and 90 million cellular phone users who have internet access will no longer be able to access pornographic material through the internet.

The law does not only curb dissemination of pornographic material but also covers prevention of cyber crime, cheating and forging of credit cards, online gambling through the internet and protect children from exposure to pornographic sites and sexual elements.

Offenders caught making and disseminating pornographic websites will be fined up to RM400,000 or imprisoned till six years.

Press Statement, 14 September 2009