Viet Nam News
By Mai Hiên
Twelve-year-old Nguyễn Thị Hoa Ly from Hà Nội’s Hà Đông District is upset as she feels lonely even at home.
There are three people in her family and they only meet in the evening.
After dinner, each member of the family sits in the corner of the living room glued to a mobile phone screen.
“My father uses the phone to play games as soon as he returns back home from the office,” she said.
In the past, her mother sat with her while she was reviewing her lessons. But recently, she has stopped doing so.
“All she does in the evening is stare at her smart phone” she said, adding that her mother spent at least three hours on the gadget.
She wonders how to make her parents put their phones down and engage with her more often.
The fact that parents spend more time on phones or social networks than they do talking to their children is not just a problem in Việt Nam, but one common around the world.
When asked to describe something they wish had never been created, second graders at a Louisiana school in the United States named mobile phones as the top item.
“I don’t like phones because [my parents] are on their phone every day… I hate my mom’s phone and I wish she never had one,” wrote one student.
Pictures of the second grade pupils’ work were posted on Facebook and shared more than 261,000 times, reported USA Today.
Phone addiction isn’t a new topic, but now more parents are demonstrating this behaviour in front of their children.
Ngô Lan Phương offered her personal experience in trying to address the problem.
As a self-confessed smart phone addict, Phương said she became angry when her son interrupted when she was using the device.
One time, her son reacted negatively to her use of her mobile phone so he grabbed it and threw it away.
“You haven’t got the right to forbid me using a phone as you use it too. You’re not really a mother. You’re just a smart phone addict,” Phương quoted her son as saying.
The conflict between Phương and her son became so heated that she began to question her smart phone use. She managed to limit herself and just check it when it was really necessary.
“I tried my best to do it with a hope that the smart phone never appeared in my home.”
Since she pledged not to use smart phone at home, Phương found that she had become closer to her children. They developed a friendship beyond that of family members.
“Thanks to getting rid of that bad habit, I have helped my son overcome challenges in his studies and developed a better relationship with his friends,” she said.
For Nguyễn Thị Bích Ngọc, the mother of a five-year-old child, her experience came to her by accident.
“I always want to use the internet to check email, see whether I had received urgent requests or wanted to update myself and maintain relations with others,” she said, adding that she couldn’t imagine how she could live without it.
Ngọc said she only discovered the impact of her phone use on her son after a field trip with his class.
During the trip to Cúc Phương National Park, due to no internet connection, Ngọc and her husband spent the whole day playing and talking with their son.
In the past, her son usually tried hard to get attention from his parents. But this time, her son shared a lot of things with them.
“What I’ve learnt from the trip is that that disconnecting from a smart phone is not a problem for me. Instead, I have the time to relax and have gained more understanding about my son,” she said.
Returning from the trip, she has decided to switch her phone off and only use it at around 10pm -- after her son went to bed.
Her idea was also shared by Nguyễn Lan Hương, a mother of two elementary school students.
“Whenever I arrive home, I don’t use phones or computers except for in emergencies,” she said.
Khuất Thu Hồng, director of the Institute for Social Development Studies, said no study had been undertaken on phone use among parents and the impact it had on their children in Việt Nam, but in her observation the number of people using smart phones was on the increase.
The time they spent on social networks or on smart phones was also higher than in the past, she said.
Parents are so passionate about their smart phone that they do not care or do not spend time talking and playing with their children. This makes them feel lonely and lacking affection from their parents.
“The lack of attention from their parents makes it difficult for children to share or discuss their problems which need to be solved. In some cases, the child might suffer from psychological issues like depression.”
Many people, particularly parents, don’t realise that they are addicted to smart phones and their phone use has an impact on their kids,” she said.
Hồng advised parents whose children are teenagers to set a careful timetable so that they could have certain time for their kids. They should make a commitment by themselves to have phone-free time.
As the mother of two, I also feel the need to reduce the time spent online and talk to my children every so often.
I see many parents driving their children to the park and letting them play alone instead of talking to them. I think that family members should spend more time interacting with each other and build relationships, rather than staring at a small screen. — VNS