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Political campaigns, for 18 and above only?

Parents say that campaign speeches are often far from children-friendly.

Nur Hasliza Mohd Salleh
2 minute read

Parents with underage children have voiced concern over the content of political speeches during election season, describing it as unsafe and capable of leaving a negative psychological effect. 

Nurul Haslin Hassan, who has three children, said politicians often fail to protect the youth, especially those who are still at school, from video content that can influence both the mind and their behaviour. 

"My five-year-old son asked me one day, what 'kepala otak kamu' means. I was really caught off guard as both my husband and I try very hard not to use such language in front of the children. 

"Even if we argue, we do it behind closed doors. But suddenly my son was saying words like that after watching a political video on TikTok," she said. 

Political talks or ceramahs, a mainstay of campaign periods, were live-streamed on a daily basis ahead of the 15th general election (GE15), with videos or short clips of events and speeches shared on messaging apps and social media. 

Some videos, edited along the lines of entertainment, were nonetheless filled with innuendoes and words such as "your head", "stupid" and "bangang". 

Social activist Mohd Fairuz Abu said such speeches were completely unsuitable to be viewed by children. 

Speaking to MalaysiaNow, he said politicians often used coarse or vulgar language without realising that their words would be heard by more than just voters. 

"The videos go viral and spread throughout social media, which is also used by children," he said. 

"Of course, this is subject to parental control, but there will be children who accidentally stumble across such clips." 

Like Haslin, Yusman Ong said he was shocked to find his 13-year-old son one day watching a TikTok video where a politician could be heard saying "bangang" over and over again. 

Taking the phone, he watched the clip for himself and found that it had nothing to do with politics. 

"It was meant to be a funny video for children, but it used the voice of a politician that had been edited," he said. 

He also recalled other videos his son showed him in which portions of political speeches were compiled to create a clip which, in the end, appeared seditious in nature. 

He said his son frequently used TikTok to keep up with the latest affairs, adding however that he had never shown any interest in politics. 

Throughout the campaign period last month, though, TikTok's algorithm was filled with political videos, making it difficult to avoid seeing anything of that nature. 

Fairuz said children who come across such videos would not necessarily be emotionally affected by the language as they might already be familiar with the words thrown about at home or in school.

"Children actually recognise more words from their parents and the internet," he said. 

"The internet here refers to whoever they like to watch, like influencers or gamers."

However, he urged politicians to be mindful of their campaign content, especially given the ease with which this could be accessed during the digital era. 

"Use appropriate words and practise mature politics," he said. 

"Spread ideas, not abusive words or the politics of race and religion."