The Internet and social networks hold risks for vulnerable children, lack judgement and social awareness. It’s vital to help children protect themselves in the digital world by improving their understanding of social networks and teaching them about the potential risks.
Social networks provide information and entertainment, expand social relations, and connect friends. Children are prone to abuse because they adopt technology quickly and don’t have sufficient awareness of the potential risks of suffering real consequences from virtual relationships.
Nguyen Bich Ngoc, a 9th grade pupil in Hanoi, has used a smart phone since she was in grade 6. All of her classmates have Facebook accounts, so does she. She lied about her age to dodge a ban on under-13s having a Facebook account. She is free to make friends worldwide and happy to have thousands of people on her friends list. She doesn’t know most of them in real life.
Ngoc said “When I accepted friend requests, I got invitations to go out on a date. Sometimes, I’ve felt hurt or scared because I was threatened or received nasty comments. News feeds on Facebook sometimes contain disturbing and inappropriate information.”
Children addicted to games and social networking on digital devices are distracted from real-life social activities. Nguyen Phuong Linh, Director of the Research Center for Management and Sustainable Development, said many parents have not appropriately guided their children or controlled their internet usage. Many children are addicted to online games, smart phones, and social networks.
“Vietnamese children lack the skills to handle risks on the internet. We call it a virtual world, but the risks are real and interactions have real impacts on children’s physical and mental health. We expect the media to help children and parents use technology and adapt to the digital era. The internet is not a virtual world but a connection to real things and real life,” said Ms. Linh.
To avoid internet dangers, parents should restrict their children’s use of the internet and install parental control functions on their computers. Parents are encouraged to play and talk with their children to understand and help them resolve any problems.