Increased internet use by children concerns parents

May 04, 2020 - 10:00

E-learning has become a popular model of education amid the COVID-19 pandemic and is expected to become a new trend in the era of the Fourth Industrial Revolution.


Students study online after schools close due to the COVID-19 pandemic. VNA/VNS Photo 

HÀ NỘI — E-learning has become a popular model of education amid the COVID-19 pandemic and is expected to become a new trend in the era of the Fourth Industrial Revolution.

But experts say for it to be a success, children need to be equipped with essential skills and knowledge to use the internet effectively and safely.

UNICEF has recently warned that millions of children across the globe are at increased risk of harm as their lives move more and more online during lockdown in the COVID-19 pandemic.

More than 1.5 billion children and young people have been affected by school closures worldwide. Many of these students are now taking classes as well as socialising more online.

Spending more time on virtual platforms can leave children vulnerable to online sexual exploitation and grooming, as predators look to exploit the COVID-19 pandemic, UNICEF said in its recently-issued technical note aiming to help governments, educators and parents to protect children in lockdown.

A lack of face-to-face contact with friends and partners may lead to heightened risk-taking such as sending sexualised images, while increased and unstructured time online may expose children to potentially harmful and violent content as well as greater risk of cyberbullying, the UNICEF said.

According to statistics from the World Health Organization and the Global Partnership to End Violence, an estimated 750,000 predators go online at any given moment.

“Under the shadow of COVID-19, the lives of millions of children have temporarily shrunk to just their homes and their screens. We must help them navigate this new reality,” said UNICEF Executive Director Henrietta Fore.

“We call on governments and industry to join forces to keep children and young people safe online through enhanced safety features and new tools to help parents and educators teach their children how to use the internet safely.”

Director of the Ministry of Labour, Invalids and Social Affairs' Department of Child Affairs Đặng Hoa Nam said during the social distancing period, the national hotline for child protection at 111 received many calls from parents expressing concerns about their children's use of the internet for a long time while staying at home. It means that using the internet safely has become great concerns of parents in the current context.

He said the children had the right to access information via the internet, particularly in the era of the fourth Industrial Revolution when the internet has become a popular means providing information and entertainment for youngsters. However, parents, educators and policy makers needed to coordinate to ensure a healthy and safe online environment.

It was necessary to gradually guide and help children to avoid fake news, harmful contents and risks posed by the use of internet by providing them with essential skills and knowledge, he said.

Đỗ Thùy Dương, founder of the "Modern Moms" group, said parents should have open discussions with their children to understand each other better as well as let their children experience and acknowledge risks themselves and get consultation from adults when needed.

Over control could make children feel that they are not trusted and may break the relationship between parents and children, leading to higher risks, according to Dương.

Sharing the same view, director Nam said parents should not interfere too much and should use technological solutions to manage children's use of the internet and discuss with children on measures to prevent harmful effects of the use of the internet on the basis of mutual respects.

Ngô Việt Khôi, an expert in training acknowledgement of safe internet usage, suggested that parents should also learn and equip themselves with consultation and technological skills and knowledge to help guide their children to the digital world on the right track.

The UNICEF recommends parents to have open dialogues with kids on the use of the internet such as how, when and where the internet should be used or how and with whom children should communicate online.

Schools are advised to update safeguarding policies for children learning from home and promote good online behaviours, according to the UNICEF.

It suggests the governments of countries increase activities to raise public awareness of child online safety. — VNS