{Interview #4} Chong Ee Jay – Cyber Wellness Educator

Chong Ee Jay, 36, is the Manager of TOUCH Cyber Wellness and Head of Volunteer Management of TOUCH community Services. He has conducted more than 300 cyber wellness workshops since 2007, reaching out to more than 15,000 parents, educators and youth workers in schools, corporations and the community.

He represented TOUCH Cyber Wellness as recipient of the Singapore Youth Award in 2011 – the highest accolade for youth achievement awards in Singapore. He is a highly sought-after speaker and trainer in the area of cyber wellness. He is married to a fellow counsellor working with children, youths and parents in tackling cyber related concerns. She is currently studying her Masters in Counselling and they are expecting their first child.

This initiative is part of our 101 Paths to Success series of interviews to gain insight into how successful people came to do what they are doing, and enlighten parents that there is a vast array of occupations for our children to discover. Hopefully it might spark an interest in our children and youths to start their journey of discerning their life’s path.

Your qualifications:


Bachelor in Engineering (NUS)
Masters in Engineering (Bioengineering) NUS
Certifications in Social work and Counselling

Workshop for parents
Describe your job: 

I oversee the cyber wellness department in TOUCH, comprising of 12 full time staff which provides a holistic suite of programmes and services for children, youths, parents, practitioners, professionals and educators. 

I conduct parents’ cyber wellness workshops to help parents be more aware of the current cyber trends as well as to impart practical tips and teach them how to manage and engage their children more effectively in this fast changing digital age.

I also run training courses for educators and social service practitioners to empower them with practical diagnostic and intervention skill sets and domain knowledge as they work frontline in tackling cyber related issues such as gaming addiction and cyber bullying.

Besides that, I’m involved in para-counselling and counsultation, working closely with individuals and families in overcoming challenges at the home front – such as parent–child relationship issues and young parents’ parenting concerns.
How did you find your passion?

Honestly, I never thought I would join the social service sector. It all started more than 12 years ago when I got “dragged” by my university friends to do volunteer work in Mendaki by providing tuition support for low income families’ children. After a few weeks I really enjoyed my time there interacting with their children and being able to encourage them and help them succeed in their studies.

Back then, I already noticed that kids were punching away on their parents’ mobile phones (non smartphones) monochrome screen playing the then-popular game – Snake! I was very intrigued because such a simple game could keep them glued to the phone… what more in the future when phones become more high tech? That’s when the notion of cyber safety came to my mind. 

After I graduated from university, I decided to follow my passion instead of what I had studied. My parents were initially hesitant about my career path because they felt that I would be “wasting” my Masters degree and considering too that my Masters project had secured me a patent. However upon several discussions, they were agreeable to having me pursue my passion. 

I had a good friend already working in TOUCH Cyber Wellness and I volunteered for 2 months as a programme assistant in the cyber wellness enrichment holiday camp. Those two months were really eye-opening and allowed me the opportunity to work closely in mentoring the youths who had excessive gaming behaviours, as well as connecting with parents to help them better empathize and understand their children’ habits and how to manage them.

Since then, I came on board as a full time staff with TOUCH Cyber Wellness and have no regrets looking back at these past 9 fruitful years!
Which aspect of your job gives you the most satisfaction?

To be able to speak hope and encouragement to many parents who are struggling and feeling hopeless in dealing with their children. I also enjoy mentoring the children and teenagers, spending time with them and educating them on positive online behaviours. 
What does success mean to you?

Success in life to me means to be able to be a blessing to someone else. This is a fundamental belief that I have held on to since my university days when I started taking my life more seriously.

Are you involved in any charity / voluntary work?

Yes, I am currently actively volunteering as a life coach to a group of young adults. I also volunteer together with my wife in mentoring a few young adult dating couples and preparing them towards marriage. 
One advice to parents

The best way you can love your children is to love your spouse. And love is spelt TIME.
One advice to teens

YOLO – You Only Live Once… So make your life count for goodness and greatness!
To be a good youth worker (or youth coach), it takes someone… who is passionate and convicted about the importance of the next generation.


{Interviews} 101 Paths to Success

#1 – Dr Karen Crasta Scientist Associate Prof at the Lee Kong Chian School of Medicine


#2 – Jeremiah Choy Creative Director Sing50 Concert at the National Stadium

#3 – Elaine Yeo Musician Singapore Symphony Orchestra


~ www.mummyweeblog.com – a blog on parenting 6 kids in Singapore ~

Tip #7: 10 House Rules for Gadget Use

Recently, I was very disturbed by the issue of smartphones and iPad usage with my teens. I attended the Singapore Parenting Congress and learnt a lot from the speaker Chong Ee Jay. Mr Chong has been working with youths for the past 10 years and is currently the assistant manager of TOUCH Cyber Wellness. He shared with us many of his experiences where youths become so addicted to gaming and their gadgets that they can’t focus in school and even stop communicating with their parents entirely. There was a lot he touched on, which I will detail in another post.

One thing he mentioned was having house rules for gadget usage. He went as far as advising us that when we give our children their first phone, we should tell them that the phone is OURS, so we have the right to take it back if need be. Personally, I think that is very wise (especially if the child is still in primary school) because otherwise, if the child feels the phone is his, he will be very resentful if you take it away from him. For my kids, we give them a phone when they are in P6. Most parents tell me that their kids start asking for a phone from the time they are in P2. Well, they can ask, but it doesn’t mean that we need to give! #4 is in P4 and she has been asking for a phone as almost all her classmates own a phone. I told her there is no need for her to have a phone now as she takes the school bus home.

I had our own rules for gadget usage, but it was verbally communicated and never written down. I guess to be clear, before you hand over a phone or iPad to your child, sit down and discuss the rules and the reasons behind it with him. And don’t forget to be consistent in enforcing the rules. Here’s a sample of our house rules, and you can adapt it to fit your own family circumstances.

1. No watching TV, playing computer or iPad on weekdays.

Last time, I did allow them to watch TV for 1 hour, but when it was time to turn it off they were unhappy. I found it easier to have a complete ban on school days.

2. On weekends, homework must be completed first.

Once they are done with homework, they can use it for 1 hour on Saturdays and 1 hour on Sundays, but it is very hard to enforce especially when I am not at home. Sigh. Haven’t figured a solution for this one.

3. Phones and ipads to be at the charging station by 8.30pm every night.

When I just gave birth to Kate and was too exhausted to check on the older ones, they kept their phones by their bedsides and it constantly beeped with texts or tweets from their friends even at midnight! It is hard for teens to regulate themselves, and they end up not having proper rest for school the next day. For my older girls who are in secondary school, I get them to leave their gadgets to charge near the front door so they can pick it up when they leave for school in the mornings.

4. No gadgets during mealtimes.

What happened with this rule was that the older ones would quickly eat then return to their rooms. When I was describing this scenario halfway to Mr Chong, he already knew what was coming and told me that’s what all teens will do! His suggestion was to set a blanket ban of 1 hour during mealtimes.


5. No gadgets in the toilets.

I heard this one from friends, where for the longest time, they thought their girls just took a long time to bathe. Finally they realised that they were hiding in the bathroom using their phones, and some kids even left the water running as a camouflage.

6. No using gadgets in the car unless urgent.

I realised that as they are sitting behind me, they could be using their phones without us noticing. Not only is it bad for the eyes as the screen is so small and the car is constantly moving, but it also ends up giving some of them a headache.

7. Stop playing within 5 minutes when asked to do so.

Without this rule, the kids will always tell you they are in the middle of a game or some other important job like harvesting fruits etc.

8. Never chat with anyone you do not know online and do not disclose personal information.

You have to constantly teach and remind the kids about internet safety as that is of utmost importance.

9. No gaming during exam periods.

The time should be used for revision or relaxing the mind with outdoor activities.

10. Gadget usage is not a MUST. It is a privilege given by parents and can be taken away.

This one I picked up from Mr Chong, which I think is very important to let the kids know so they don’t think it’s a natural entitlement, especially when almost all their friends seem to have a smartphone.

And of course with rules, there need to be consequences. The most logical consequence of breaking any of the rules is:

 CONFISCATION OF GADGET

Sane tip: Before you give your child a phone, I seriously advice you to sit down and have a long discussion with your child about rules, limits, privacy, not believing everything they read on twitter, the internet or whatever else, and to always come back to us parents if they have any questions at all. Try to keep communication lines open with your children. That is your best bet in helping them to navigate the whole scary digital world out there.

Save tip: For their first phones, I used to give them the old type of flip phones. It is hard to get them these days, so the next best thing is to pass down your old phones to them. I see a lot of kids these days with the latest smartphones. I don’t think it is necessary at all and should be saved as an extremely valuable reward to give your child as motivation if they do well for their ‘O’ levels. If you give your kids things too easily, not only will they get a sense of entitlement, but you will have nothing left to motivate them for their major exams.

~ www.mummyweeblog.com – a blog on parenting 6 kids in Singapore ~

Tip #6: Ban books? What are you gonna do about phones?

I was reading about the saga following the National Library Board’s (NLB) removal of 3 seemingly ‘unacceptable’ books regarding homosexuality. Apparently it has been confirmed that at least 6 books have recently been pulled off the shelves.

While this issue of censorship has been debated furiously on social media, I have also been facing the same issue of censorship with my teens. And the more I think about it, the more worried I’m getting.


It all began with giving them their iPhones and iPads (which by the way, was both the hub’s idea).
The 2 oldest kids got their first phones when they were 12, as a reward for doing well in their PSLE. If I had my way, I would hold out as long as possible. Unfortunately, the hubs is a huge fan of gadgets, and he enjoys buying them for the kids. His rationale? “You can’t shield them forever”. So his job was to make that 1 awesome purchase, with the kids hailing him as hero, thereafter, the onerous job of instilling limits and rules on gadget use fell on me.

As with most parents, my top 2 concerns were duration of use (not too long and not too late), and usage (the apps they were downloading).

When #1 was first given her phone, my concerns and rules were relatively straightforward.

1) Phones out in the living room at 8.30pm every night (I didn’t want them to be using their phones instead of sleeping)

2) Limit amount of talking on the phone (exorbitant phone bills)

3) Monitor their Facebook use (concerned about internet safety)

4) Limit amount of YouTube use (content and too tiny screen)

How naive I was. Fast forward 4 years later, and I have totally lost control. #1 and #2 are now 15 and 13 years old respectively, and their phones are almost like an extension of their hands. Not only are they constantly on it, but talking on their phone has now become the least of my concerns. In fact, I am happy to see them talking on the phone (the house phone, that is). These days, kids hardly even communicate verbally. They spend a large part of their time communicating digitally. Facebook is also not much of an issue, because as any ‘cool’ teen will tell you, “Who even uses Facebook? Get with the times, mum.”

So now, what is worrying me? One main thing is Twitter. Firstly, they can ‘Follow’ anyone they want to ‘Follow’, and that is where they get a lot of their information. Believe me, your hair will stand if you read some of the tweets. Your teens will be exposed to the opinions and ideology of literally any other teen or celebrity in the world. Secondly, the tweets happen every other second, so before they know it, your teens will be addicted to these tweets. Remember how in our time, we went crazy over pop stars or movie stars? Well, they have certainly taken crazy to new heights. I can accept the posters all over their bedroom walls, and their ears constantly plugged in to music. But now they also have ‘fandoms’ on Twitter, where a community of people who admire the same idol come together to discuss and rave about that celebrity. They end up getting addicted and spend a whole lot of time on Twitter sharing information about their idol. They then become friends with a whole array of teens hailing from different countries as they feel a connection with them, and move on to communicate one-to-one via Whatsapp.

Then there is Snapchat. I have been watching my teens using Snapchat for some time now. They will take fun shots of where they are or what they are doing (eating, shopping, playing) and it will be sent to their circle of friends. It is however not quite like normal photo sharing. You can allocate a certain time for your recipient to view it (1-10 seconds) and the photo will vanish after that. However, the party you have sent the image to can save it if they quickly screenshot it or use another device to take a picture of it before it disappears. It did seem relatively harmless to me, but when I was reading an article on this issue, it describes Snapchat as dangerous. Yes, now that they mention it, I can see how this can get dangerous if they start to snap indiscriminate photos of themselves, and of their locations. And what if their friends turn against them one day and start to disseminate their photos.

Needless to say, the phone is seriously one potentially dangerous piece of gadget you will be giving to your child. And the scary thing is, you will not be able to see the dangers until it is much too late. By that time, the amount of uncensored information that has entered your teen’s head is astronomical, and it is insidious. One day, you will be having a conversation with your teen and you will suddenly think to yourself “Is this my kid? The kid that I raised under my roof?” And that will be a sad, sad day for you. I just experienced that, and was disconcerted and depressed for a whole week. I couldn’t place my finger on the reason I was feeling down, but now I think I know why. You give of your best and try to bring them up well, but all comes to naught as their minds are gradually brainwashed by social media and the friends they make online.

I understand the sentiments of those parents who are fighting for the books to be kept away. That was my first response when I realised my teens were getting access to so much unregulated information on the internet via their phones and iPads. Yes, we can fight to take away 3, 6 or even 60 books. But how are you going to fight to take away all the information on the internet and on social media that goes against your values?

As I was mulling over this, not only with my mind but with my heart, and wondering how I was going to re-address the issue with my teens, yesterday’s article in The Straits Times provided me with my answer.

Dr Lim Sun Sun (associate professor in the Department of Communications and New Media at the NUS) says that a ‘Cot bumper approach’ to raising kids won’t work. 

“You hold the key to building your child’s defences against perspectives that contradict the beliefs that you subscribe to, and that you want your children to subscribe to. You can interpret, moderate and mediate for your child the media content that he is confronted with…. It is an ongoing journey of trust, sharing, discussion, and debate. Rather than obliterate all opinions that you consider deleterious, embrace each alternative view as an opportunity to rationalise to your child why you disagree with it. Foster a relationship of mutual respect and understanding where your child knows that she can turn to you when she encounters messages that are confusing or upsetting. Instil in your child the skills of discernment that will see him through every PG movie, First-Person shooter video game or inflammatory online comment.”


At the beginning of the year, I had a conversation about LGBT relationships with #2. I was surprised that she had such strong opinions on the issue and she felt that it doesn’t matter whether it was between heterosexuals or homosexuals, but if they loved each other, what was wrong? And why must you judge them? I went on to explain to her our values and our religious stance and finally I said that what her friends are doing or what their orientations are are not of my concern, but because all of you are my children, I expect you to get married to a person of the opposite sex and have children. Then she replied, “Oh, then what are we arguing about? I thought you were against other people being gays and lesbians.”

Times have definitely changed. For every standpoint you make, they would have heard a hundred other counter opinions of it. And trust me, they would not be as subtle as 2 male penguins raising a baby penguin. It will be direct, passionate, in-your-face statements.

I’m going to need to take a deep breath and psych myself up to face this new wave of challenges I can see heading my way. And we all thought it was tough dealing with the terrible twos.

Sane tip: Before you even hand them their very first phone, find out all the current apps that teens are using. Sit down with them and set limits on which apps you allow and explain to them why you do not allow them certain apps. Also set basic rules on time limits such as no phone use after 9pm, during mealtimes and homework time. I wish someone had enlightened me about all this before I gave #1 her phone. It is so much harder both for me and for them to re-negotiate their gadget use after they have been on those apps for so long.

The good news is that there is an app called TimeAway which was created by an American working at Google. She is now living in Singapore and noticed that the kids were glued to their gadgets. She spoke to many parents and realised that while they wanted to give their kids phones for various reasons, they also wanted to prevent addiction and social isolation. TimeAway was created to solve the problem as it allows the parents to monitor and control device usage and app downloads. It is able to pause devices, set time limits and even block apps that cause concern like Snap chat (gulp!)

Save tip: If I had my way, I’ll be giving them flip phones! Although as #1 informed me, “they are obsolete mum”.

I would love to hear from parents who have some good ideas on how you work this out with your children.

Other discipline tips (which I’ve learnt after having 5 kids):

Tip #8: What do you do when your 2-year old lies?
Tip #9: When the gramps can’t say ‘no’

~ www.mummyweeblog.com – a blog on parenting 6 kids in Singapore ~




Let’s just say it: Parenting can be depressing

I was reading this article in yesterday’s Straits Times, which was taken from the New York Times. It was basically saying that many parents experience distress, even 5 years after the birth of the child. However, it seems only socially acceptable to acknowledge that everything is ok, because after all we love our kids dearly so how can it be depressing right? 

When we read about other people’s lives via their blogs or on social media, we see images of adorable kids and happy families. But what actually goes on behind closed doors? Not only are there the sleepless nights, endless crying and financial worries, but as they grow up, you wonder if you have done a good job parenting. And if your teens start to stray or pick up ideology far different from yours, it can be heartbreaking.

We tend to keep it to ourselves, and face it alone. Because we think we might be seen as failures or bad parents if we admit that sometimes we feel depressed with the overwhelming challenges we face or when some days we look at our kids and don’t like what we see.

So let’s give ourselves a break, and not look at the impossible standards around us and feel we have to live up to it. For they are just the nice bits. The reality is that all parents will sooner or later face set backs, disappointments, even despair somewhere along their parenting journey. Some more so, some less. I used to think that once the kids grow up and enter school, my job will be much easier. Yes, definitely physically easier. But it is replaced by other challenges. I think the only way is to expect that it may happen, and be ready to face it. And to have good friends to share their experiences or even a listening ear.


When I had so many questions swirling in my mind, I found my answer in something a friend shared on Facebook. It read: No matter how the craziness of this whole parenting thing turns out, the reward of loving is in the loving. I was lamenting how difficult it is to keep sacrificing selflessly without expecting anything in return. Finally I get it.

As Alfred Lord Tennyson wrote in his poem in 1850,


Tis better to have loved and lost
Than never to have loved at all.” 


I reckon the same can be said for parenting. No matter how rocky the road has been and will continue to be, I am honoured to have the opportunity to take on the role of everything a mummy stands for, to 6 persons brought into this world, and even if I had known that the path will be fraught with challenges, I wouldn’t have chosen any other way.

I chanced upon this quote last week when I was feeling miserable. Don’t you find it comforting? I would love for someone to say that to me and I hope I’ve been doing some of that to those around me. I’m going to keep that in mind, and remember to give a hand to my kids, friends in need, new mums I meet.

Just when I was feeling wobbly about this whole new phase of parenting teens and wondering what on earth am I doing as a blogger when I myself haven’t got the answers, it cheered me up to learn that I made it to the Top 10 finalist for the Best New Blog Category of the Singapore Blog Awards 2014. Yay. If you have enjoyed reading my blog, do spare a minute each day (one vote allowed per day until the end of July) and vote for me 🙂


I would also like to say a big thank you to you, my dear readers, for your support these past 11 months for reading, leaving your comments, and most of all for your encouragement. For we all have our down days, don’t we?

~ www.mummyweeblog.com – a blog on parenting 6 kids in Singapore ~