Following is a question by the Hon Choy So-yuk and an oral reply by the acting Secretary for Home Affairs, Mr Arthur Ng, in the Legislative Council today (June 7): Question: It is reported that an increasing number of adolescents are engaging in online chatting on the Internet, some have become indulgent and some even become acquainted with undesirable elements and become crime victims. In this connection, will the Government inform this Council: (a) of the respective numbers of crime cases related to online chatting reported and cracked down in the past year, broken down by the type of cases; (b) whether it has studied how adolescents are affected in respect of their mental and intellectual developments, communication skills and interpersonal relationship by their indulgence in such online chatting; if it has, of the results; if it has not, whether it will do so; and (c) of the measures taken to assist parents and adolescents in adopting a correct attitude towards participating in such activities, and to assist schools and parents in dealing with problems related to adolescents indulged in online chatting? Reply: Madam President, (a) At present, the Hong Kong Police Force does not maintain separate figures on crime reports related to on-line chatting. Thus, there is no statistical data on the number of such cases including its breakdown. But anecdotal experience is that there have been few cases of crimes arising from on-line chatting. (b) Since online chatting on the Internet has only become widespread among local young people recently, the Administration has not carried out any study on the effect of such activity on our youth before. However, the Commission on Youth is planning to conduct a study on the influence of information technology (IT) on youth later this year.

The study, among other topics, will cover the influence of Internet usage (including online chatting) on the behavior of our youth, as well as the relationship between the value standards of youth, their behavior in daily life and their Internet usage pattern. (c) The Education Department has implemented the following measures to assist students in developing a correct attitude towards computer applications, including online activities - (i) Curriculum Support The Education Department revised the syllabuses of computer subjects in secondary schools in 1999. The revised syllabuses cover the correct attitude towards applications of computer and the Internet. The Education Department recently developed a set of Information Technology (IT) Learning Targets for primary and secondary school students. Apart from the knowledge and skills to be acquired by students at different learning stages, the learning targets also set out the correct attitude towards applications of IT, e.g. the social and ethical responsibilities of using IT (including the Internet) and the awareness of indecent elements or activities on the Internet.

The IT Learning Targets will be implemented at schools starting from September this year. (ii) Provision of Training The Education Department will include next year a new topic "Guidance Programme to Develop Correct Attitude Towards IT Application" in the pre-service and in-service training for student guidance teachers. ( ) Support to Parents The Education Department has set up a homepage to provide parents with information on the healthy development of children. The homepage includes reports and article extracts on the attitude of adolescents towards using IT and the Internet as well as how parents educate their children about using IT and the Internet. Information uploaded recently include reports on adolescents engaging in online chatting and how parents could deal with problems related to children indulged in on-line chatting. If students are found to be indulged in online chatting, schools may refer them to the Psychological Services Section of the ED. The officers will provide counselling services to the parents and students concerned.

The Information Technology and Broadcasting Bureau also emphasises the correct attitude of young people and children on using the Internet. For example, the Information Technology Services Department has produced a VCD entitled "Explore IT with our Children". The VCD has been distributed to all secondary schools for discussion at their parent-teacher associations. The main focus of the VCD is on how parents could guide their children on the proper use of the Internet. The Television and Entertainment Licensing Authority has also launched various publicity and public education programmes, such as distribution of publicity materials to and talks for parents, broadcast of Announcements of Public Interest in television and radio to encourage parents to provide guidance to their children on how to prevent them form exposure to indecent or obscene materials on the Internet. In making available computers for use by our youngsters in children and youth centres, it is also common that non-governmental organizations organize sessions for parents and youngsters to, apart from teaching them to use the Internet, alert them to possible hazards to which young people are exposed and provide guidance on the correct attitude when using the Internet.

Those with personal or familial problems arising from youngsters indulging in using the Internet may seek assistance from school social workers or family caseworkers..