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Stories: Children, Community, Future

Online safety for children required collective efforts

Ngoc started to use a smartphone when she was a 6th grader. Seeing most of her classmates use Facebook, Ngoc managed to set up an account for herself.

Facebook regulates that people can set up an account only when they are over 13 years old, but Ngọc simply can easily cheated the system “no one can verify that”, she said.

Being free to make friends with everybody around the world, Ngoc was happy when her friend list reached thousands of people.

Ngoc participates in ChildFund Swipe Safe information sharing sessions to learn about child online safety

 

“I did not know most of the people on my friend list in real life,” she said.

Ngọc has shared a lot of her information on her Facebook, although she does not know the identities of her friends, nor where they are.

Ngọc and other classmates were harmed by “friends” on the social network.

“If we did not accept an invitation to go out from friends on Facebook, we received threats and other bad words, so we felt threatened and frightened,” said Ngọc.

In 2019, Ngoc joined training sessions delivered by ChildFund Swipe Safe program. It’s a good response that Ngoc shared those with her friends and ask for help. Measures have been advised, including cutting off connection with those “friends” and reducing her screen time to redirect to learning and other activities.

Launched in 2017, the ChildFund Swipe Safe project have helped over 12.000 children like Ngoc having accesss to proper training to mitigate risks posed when using internet. In the final survey, 100% children said that they know at least one way to protect themselves when being online.

With this project, not only children but parents and teachers also received training on skills related to the digital world so that all people can adapt to the information technology era.

“To protect the children people should not ban them from the internet, as spending time using it responsibly is necessary to develop good habits. Family, school and society should let the children join digital life actively under the protection and supervision of the adults,” Bui Duy Thanh, ChildFund Vietnam Online Safety Specialist, said.

“On the other hand, parents should act as friends to listen to children’s problems while using the internet,” Thanh said.

The country has 64 million Facebook accounts. More than one-third of them belong to youth aged between 15 and 24.

About 68 per cent of the children learn to use the internet by themselves. Only 11 per cent of them learn at schools, but teachers only teach them how to use the internet, not how to use it safely.

On the other hand, parents often do not supervise children’s actions on the internet. Most parents did not give guidance to their children when they used smartphones, iPads or the Internet every day. As a result, many children were threatened and abused on the internet.

“We call the internet a ‘virtual world’, but in fact, it’s not virtual. The risks it brings are real, and the harm to the children’s physical and psychology is real,” said Thanh.

To help protect the children, organisations and service suppliers should reject bad images, information and documents from the internet before the children can access them.

In the age of digital technology, which has grown exponentially and moved to every corner of our lives, a multidisciplinary approach was the optimal way to cover many problems relating to child protection including prevention, intervention and support.

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