Chu Lan Hương
In a rapidly developing world where the internet is often seen a vital tool for educating children, there is a dark side to the world wide web that can cause grief and heartache for parents.
It is high time we step-up and educate our children about the dangers that lurk in cyber space, from online bullying, body shaming, sexual predators, and in the most extreme cases, videos that encourage children to self-harm or even worse.
Violent videos and clips about suicide are not difficult to find online.
You might think your son or daughter is innocently watching cartoons or children’s programs when they are glued to their tablets, but in actual fact, they could just be a click away from something far more sinister.
Even social networking sites have few filters to root out what is or isn’t age appropriate for a child to watch. Yes, some videos contain warnings beforehand, but often this just fuels the curiosity.
Associate Professor, Dr. Trần Thành Nam, an educational and psychological expert, said harmful content on social networks that are not strictly controlled are silently reaching young people, especially children with complicated psychological developments, loneliness or unusual hobbies.
And then there are the extremes.
We have all read about so-called pop-ups and scary cartoon characters appearing on YouTube encouraging children to do bad things.
Yes, many of these stories can be dismissed as urban legends or simply anecdotal, but what is not in doubt is the number of criminal networks using the web to trick children into committing unspeakable acts.
Lieutenant Colonel Khổng Ngọc Anh from the Criminal Police Department said: “There were several online videos teaching kids how to commit suicide, and teaching children if they were in trouble or disagree with someone they should find a peaceful death.”
Schools play their part in teaching children to spot warning signs and dangers online, but as parents our role in protecting our kids is far greater.
Any parent who claims never to have just handed over an iPad or smartphone to their child in the hope of a few moments of peace for themselves would be lying. We’ve all done it.
And yes, 99% of the time chances are your son or daughter is probably just watching Peppa Pig, but it’s that other 1% that’s the real concern.
Challenges to parents
In recent decades, technology has played a significant role in promoting the development of both education and the economy but it also creates a great deal of pressure for parents.
Controlling smart devices, along with harmful content in the endless data of social networks has become an almost impossible task, for many.
“It was really hard for me to control my children’s internet access,” said Nguyễn Hoàng Oanh, a mother of two children.
“I could not watch all the videos or the sites they visited,” said Oanh.
“They made me mad because of the amount of time they spend watching YouTube or on Facebook.
“Sometimes, I wanted to ban them from accessing to internet by confiscating their smart phones or tablets but I did not do that.
“I was a little concerned that my children would lag behind their friends if they did not have a chance to listen to the latest music videos or update trends of young people all over the world.
“This was my dilemma.”
There is another age old problem that, let’s face it, is common among many households. Often it’s your children who know more about technology that you do.
Some parents even go to the lengths of cutting the wire altogether, banning all internet access for their children.
“My children did not talk with me anymore since I prohibited them watching YouTube,” said Nguyễn Liên Phương, a 45-year-old woman.
According to Dr. Khuất Thu Hồng, director of Social Development Institution, parents should not blame social media in its entirety.
The responsibility falls firmly on their shoulders when it comes to equipping our children with the knowledge and skills to know what to do and how to behave properly, Hồng said.
In real life, if we do not teach children how to swim or cross the roads in accordance with traffic laws then they will also face risks and dangers, Hồng said.
“Social networks, technology were developing day by day, so we should review what skills and knowledge we were equipping our children with to survive in such a fast-growing society," the expert said.
A big part of parenthood is teaching your offspring the realities of life. In the past it may have been not to talk to strangers, or take care when crossing the road. And while those lessons are still vital, there is an added dimension to consider.
And for parents to be able to warn their children of the dangers hiding within the pages of the internet, we too need to collect the knowledge ourselves.
We need to know first-hand the risks. Only then can we all become good parents in the modern age. VNS