I called out a boy for spamming ’69’ in chatbox during a HBL session

By Matthew Zachary Liu

“Fuck you.”

If those words alone already make you uncomfortable, the reality of what students are up to these days may shock you.

10 year olds are swearing.

12 year olds are surfing porn.

14 year olds are sexually active.

16 year olds are broken.

18 year olds are committing crimes.

Your children may not be as wholesome as you think.

Unfortunately, some parents and schools are oblivious, too strict or in denial until it’s a little too late.. by the time you do realize, the damage is done or they’ve blocked you out of their lives.

They are the digital generation. For better or worse, they grew up with devices in their hands instead of books. They are “smarter” but also a lot more exposed to everything on the internet. They consume things on Tiktok, interact on Discord.. which could be really toxic sometimes.

One minute they are keeping up with some Tiktok trend, the next second it could be viewing some stupid prank or sexualised content. They follow streamers, game with others on servers; instead of expanding their vocabulary, they level up their vulgarity.

They communicate by spamming stickers and memes, text incoherently; maybe i’m now “old” because I literally had to ask one of my students “what on earth are you saying?”. But it’s quite concerning that they’ve become so used to their texting styles that some cannot even distinguish the difference between a casual message to a friend vs writing a formal message or official email.

Their phones are their lives. But online, they lead multiple lives.

We used to create different email accounts to filter spam.. these days, they create multiple accounts to stalk, to game, to anonymously troll or hate on others online thinking there are no consequences or they cannot be traced.

Some parents impose screen time or phone locks but your kids are “smart”. They know how to bypass these restrictions or hide what they don’t want you to know. The more you try to dig, the more they will hide things from you. It’s a constant game of cat and mouse. Take their devices away and you’ll meet a different monster.

It’s something that’s a lot more common and rampant but unfortunately, some parents and schools are oblivious, too strict or in denial until it’s too late.

During one of the Home-Based Learning (HBL) sessions, I was conducting a class online for Primary 5 kids. In the chat, some boy decided to spam “69” as one of the answers which created havoc in the chat box.

So I called him out.

“Why is your answer 69?”

“Because..” he unmuted, and then just burst out laughing.

“I want you to explain to me and to the class what 69 actually means,” I replied him, dead serious.

“Erm…” the boy was hesitant.

“.. it’s a sex number,” another classmate typed in the chat.

“Yea, you’re right. It is related to sex. Can you share with the class what else you know about it?” I directed the attention back at the 69 spammer who seemed torn at this point.

“I don’t want to say..”

“How do you feel right now when I asked you to explain what 69 means?”

“I don’t know.. not good?”

“Don't worry, i'm not scolding you. I want you guys to know that if you’re not ready to explain whatever you type or say.. or if you now know that it makes you uncomfortable, next time, think about how your words and actions can affect you and those around you before you go blurting something out. Because you have control over what you choose to say or do but if you don’t, you better be ready for the consequences you may have to face,”

“Okay..” the boy meekly replied and surprisingly, sent me a direct message a few minutes later to apologize.

When they are conscious and reflect on their own doing instead of completely shutting down or shutting out, that’s always a start.

When such issues surface, I usually address it head on.. only to sometimes be told off or shut down by the ones who deem it too sensitive or “not part of the lesson plan”. I’ve stopped trying to fight it or change things within someone else’s classroom. These days, I work closely with some of my own students, parents and certain educators who believe that these are important issues.

Media literacy. Sex education. Mental well being. Emotional control.

I personally and strongly believe that beyond academic subjects, these are some of issues that should be incorporated stronger into the school syllabus, starting from the primary school level.

It’s not always the boys that are “trouble” though.

Teen crushes these days are no longer just an innocent “we like each other”.

I have a coachee who shared that in her class, her peers are openly discussing and exploring things more sexually and if things go south with their crush or ex, their advice to each other is to “just say he raped you,”. They are Secondary 1.

Blame the Tiktok culture or whatever but these things are happening.

Real conversations and the right education needs to be in place to teach certain things beyond just academic subjects.

Some parents or schools aren’t aware or sweep these things aside but..

If not in school or at home, then where? They’re already picking things up from online exposure and trends.

It’s too early, they’re still young? 12 year olds are discussing sex and not as a science chapter on reprodcution.

They will learn to cope? What if they don’t. What if they don’t know how to. What if at 16, they cannot deal with their own mental or emotional state and end up taking an irreversible action?

Then what?

They are a different generation. They might seem unmotivated, angry, lost.. but beneath a “typical teenage angst”, they may be dealing with a lot internally or exposed to too much online but such issues are never talked about until it’s too late.

It’s not an easy conversation to have. But not having a heart to heart conversation at all or “forcing” them to listen instead of really listening to them first, may only build a wall too high to breach as they continue to grow.

Devices aren’t necessarily the problem. Lack or less than ideal forms of communication may be what needs to be worked on. It can be really frustrating sometimes but if kids feel loved and understood.. they will learn and eventually find themselves or ways better.

It could be the difference between them cursing “fuck you” under their breath or acknowledging in their hearts that they “love you”.

This first appeared as a post on the Facebook page of Matthew Zachary Liu on 20 February 2022. Do join in the discussion over there if you have thoughts to share.


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