Cyber thugs shouldn't be kids' idols

April 04, 2019 - 08:23

Bad role models are easy to find on the internet

Illustration by Đàm Minh Chí

By Phạm Hoàng Anh

A 26-year-old YouTube star was arrested in northern Bắc Ninh Province on Tuesday for alleged involvement in an illegal gambling ring, drug abuse and possession of deadly weapons.

A video was later circulated online in which he was seen crying and apologising for his wrongdoings.

He was 14 when he dropped out of school after getting into several fights. After spending some time in juvenile detention, he never finished his secondary education. It was a slippery slope from there; he got into more fights, committed more crimes and ended up doing time in prison.

It may sound like an all too familiar story but what’s interesting here is the manner in which his arrest was warranted. He attracted police attention after photos and videos in which he was seen gambling, smashing and burning a motorbike and stopping in the middle of a national highway to snap a photo.

His YouTube channel, which has been taken down since his arrest, was among the top 10 most watched channels in Việt Nam, and has nearly 2 million subscribers. He was seen often in his channel cursing and threatening his rivals or anyone who crossed him.

His videos were viewed millions of times with thousands of comments, many of which showed admiration for his actions. There was even a video in which he could be seen being welcomed by secondary school students as a superstar. Some students said he was their idol due to his righteousness and his affection for his family and friends.

As the investigation into the young man’s criminal activities unfolds, experts and parents are voicing concerns over the consequence of this phenomenon. Young minds are easily affected and bad actors can influence youngsters to take part in illegal acts like gambling and drug-taking.

Meanwhile, many experts believe we have been seeing these issues for a while now. In recent years, violent incidents in schools have been reported more frequently. To be clear, there is a vast difference between students getting into fights with each other and students being made victims of school violence. It is the manner and degree in which school violence was conducted that we must be aware of and concerned about.

Last week, the nation was in an uproar after a video in which five female students were seen beating and stripping naked one of their female classmates for seemingly no reason at all. The victim was later revealed to have a history of struggling with mental issues and it wasn’t the first time she was subjected to such violence.

Just yesterday another video was uploaded online. A female student was seen being forced on her knees and slapped repeatedly by four of her seniors over a dispute. It’s no longer a question of if another video like that will be circulated on the internet but when.

Every time it happens, parents and school leaders get together. Disciplinary actions are taken, promises are made but that is just trying to treat the symptoms of a deeply rooted problem: we do not offer young students sufficient moral education.

Long gone is the time when building character was the most important goal of education. It’s all about good grades these days, about whether students make the cut in the race to universities. Education experts have been complaining about how years of negligence on moral education and life skills have left Vietnamese students both vulnerable to and easily misled by bad influences.

At home, the situation isn’t much better with parents either too busy or too ill-informed when it comes to the internet to monitor their children activities online. Many of them only discovered the problem long after their kids have been corrupted by online stars.

The question we must find an answer to here is not why such a character managed to gain that kind of attention but why some young people find him agreeable and more importantly how to change their perception of what is good and what is bad.

Just like how the internet can give fame to cyber thugs, it is within the internet community’s power to help young people learn how to tell right from wrong. VNS