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Parents pose as teens to protect kids online

Update: December, 01/2013 - 17:25

by Trung Hieu - Hien Anh

Hanoian Le Thi Hang was shocked to receive a notice from her daughter's high school saying she was temporarily suspended for insulting her teacher on Facebook.

Hang rushed to the school, where her daughter's classmates showed her her Facebook page. The mother was even more shocked to see her daughter's half-naked photographs with her face covered in makeup, along with statuses and comments criticising her parents and teachers.

"I would not expect my reticent daughter to have such a sharp tongue," she said.

So Hang asked others to help her set up a Facebook in order to manage her daughter.

Every three seconds someone in Viet Nam registers to join a social networking service, according to a recent survey by global social media organisation WeAreSocial (UK). Most of them are young people, especially teenage students whose need to chat and share often eclipses their desire to do homework. Parents complain that their children spend only a few minutes studying and get bored, but they can spend many hours on Facebook with passion.

"We feel worried that they are too young. Many students make friends with bad people who take advantage of their youth to entice them into vices, especially young girls," Hang said.

She's one of an increasing number of parents worried about Facebook's influence on their children.

"My wife and I are so busy with work, we allowed our son to use the computer at home with the condition that he is banned from playing games and visiting dirty pages," said Tran Thanh, a father in Thanh Xuan District of Ha Noi. "But when I accidentally visited his Facebook page recently, I felt so worried.

"I couldn't read all the contents because they used their own 'chat' language, but what we could translate showed that their language was so indiscriminate! Many of his classmates gossiped badly about their friends and families."

Nguyen Mai Ly, another parent agreed: "On the virtual network, our children lack self-control and make friends with many strangers. The schoolgirls are so crazy about South Korean actors and singers that they forget to eat and sleep. They're even ready to spend time to argue with anyone who dare to 'throw stones' at their idols."

But as much as parents might want to ban their children from using the internet, they realise doing so would be impractical.

"In this era, preventing children from using the Internet would slow their growth and be unfair," said Nguyen Long Quang, the father of an eighth grader on the capital's Mai Dong Street.

So a growing number of parents are resorting to unusual methods, with many creating fake Facebook accounts under which they try to exert a good influence on their children.

"Occasionally, I use my virtual nickname as another student to advise him to stay calm and delete any inciting articles," said Quang, who visits Facebook every day to check his son's feelings and status and understand his desires.

This strategy, though, requires dedication.

"To become a "virtual friend" with my kid, it took much time for me to study Facebook and learn teenage language and the latest news about music and Korean dramas," said Nguyen Thi Hong in Phan Ke Binh Street. "I calmly advise my child to stay away from bad friends and try to study while also setting time aside for entertainment, friends and relatives, rather than staying too long in the virtual world."

Rather than go online to "rescue" their children from Facebook, many educators say the best strategy is for parents to spend more time with them in person, talking with them about their daily lives and helping them relieve their frustrations about learning and relationships.

"We can't ban our children from using Facebook, so the best way is for the school and the family to educate them about it," said Professor Van Nhu Cuong, principal of Luong The Vinh private high school in Ha Noi. "Parents should not spoil their children by buying them expensive mobile phones or laptops because they don't have time to spend with them. As for students, they should use Facebook to support their learning and have positive interactions with teachers, friends and relatives."

Associate Professor Trinh Hoa Binh, deputy general secretary of Sociology Association, agreed that understanding, rather than duplicity, was the best policy.

"Parents who do not know anything about Facebook should understand it so that they can approach their children. If we prohibit our children, they will be uncooperative," Binh said. "We need to talk to children so they can understand both the benefits and potential harms of using Facebook."

Parents should also give children necessary knowledge to protect themselves online, such as not providing their phone number and home address to anyone. Moreover, they should explain to children that their achievements on Facebook are only virtual. What they can do in real life is far more important. — VNS

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