by Nguyen Thanh Ha
Since Viet Nam first joined the global internet in 1997, it has become a very popular and useful means of communications for millions of people, but for some, the internet has become an addiction.
The internet has been responsible for the success of many researchers and companies. It is a giant storehouse of knowledge for anyone who wants to use it. However, it has many other uses for people, especially youngsters who use it to chat and play on-line games, said Nguyen Duc Anh from the Ha Noi Centre for Research of Social and Science Development.
Youngsters and their infatuation for on-line gaming has become one of society's leading concerns, because no one could guess how large an impact it would have on the youth of the country, Anh said.
Hoang Hai Yen, a government employee, said that during working hours she and her colleagues often spend time chatting with their friends inside and outside of the country.
"Chatting is my favourite activity. I have many friends but I don't have much time to meet, so we often talk and exchange views via the internet.
"Thanks to the internet, I can easily find out how my parents and relatives are doing in the US, or how my son's studies are going in the UK," said Yen.
She added however, that chatting wastes a lot of her time for doing other work.
"I often have to work late to finish my daily work. Although I've received warnings about it from my boss, chatting attracts me a lot. I couldn't give it up."
Chu Thi Hoa, Yen's friend, said that her son, 12-year-old Bui Van Sang, has been addicted to on-line gaming since he was 9 years old.
"We had to keep all of the equipment, such as our computer, laptop and Ipad, in our store or sell it, but this measure couldn't prevent my son from playing on-line games at shops outside my home.
"He often skipped his meals and cut school to play games. We've tried our utmost, talking to him time and time again - we've even included punishment - but we still failed," Hoa said. She also worries if her son, influenced by friends, has been searching the internet for sexual images.
"It would be really terrible for a small child like my son to have access to unhealthy material and sexual images and also to forget his studies," said Hoa, adding that to rescue him, she recently asked her boss if she could stay at home in order to monitor her son's activities.
The latest survey by the Ministry of Information and Communications shows that 70 per cent of all computer time is spent accessing unhealthy material or sexual images, and many users are students. "Due to a lack of concern from families, schools and society, the internet is becoming harmful to the "virtual world" of people, including youngsters," the ministry said.
Professor Jeral Block, from the US Science and Medical University of Oregon, said that internet addicts often forget appointments, neglect meals and sleep, and become angry or tense when they don't have access to the Internet.
"These people often live separately from their families and community. It's a psychological ailment spreading over the world," said Block.
Coleen Moore, a co-ordinator at the Illinois Rehabilitation Centre, said she has many patients spending 14-18 hours on the internet.
According to Google statistics, when compared with the rest of the world, Viet Nam is one of the leading nations when it comes to people searching for sex-related material online.
About 42 per cent of people living in big cities like Ha Noi and HCM City spend 43 minutes online per day, or VND174,000 per month, on the internet, according to the latest research on internet usage in Viet Nam by Yahoo Viet Nam and the TNS Group.
Eighty-nine per cent of these people are mainly using the internet for reading news and chatting via email, but e-commerce only accounts for 4 per cent.
The website Vietnam2you... boasts in one section: Fortune Telling and Foretell, and invites people to "discover and understand the most correct predictions about their life and future."
Paralleling these types of superstitions, there are websites such as 998.vn.... which seduce youngsters into gambling and playing difficult games for a big bonus, but the aim is to wring money out of the players.
Nguyen Tu Quang, director of the Bach Khoa Internet Security Centre (BKIS), said it's very difficult to reorganise and manage these websites until the relevant government agencies officially join in.
According to the Ministry of Education and Training, in Singapore or Australia IT teachers hand out themes and have their students search the internet for information and then bring their findings to class for discussion. The teacher collects all of his students' information and then orients all of the correct information. Such a study method encourages creativity in students without limiting them in other ways.
However, in Viet Nam, many teachers still do not possess the necessary skills for accessing the internet when compared with their students, who can use the internet fluently to enjoy unhealthy material and sex images, the ministry also said.
To deal with these problems, the South Korea has built a network of 140 centres, with treatment programmes at 100 hospitals, to help internet addicts. They also opened a new camp called, Rescue from the Internet, to treat heavy on-line addicts for free.
Additionally, the South Korean National Assembly recently held the first international seminar on internet addicts.
"While consulting this South Korean model, parents should show much concern and keep close contact with their children and educate them when they are little boys and girls to avoid the virtual world and on-line game by creating a healthy environment inside the family," said Tran Quang Quy, deputy minister of Education and Training. — VNS