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In Viet Nam, Internet access creates opportunities and safety challenges alike

© UNICEF Viet Nam/2012/Dominic Blewett
For Viet Nam's youth, access to the Internet offers opportunities to learn and connect to the world, but comes with safety challenges as well.

HANOI, Viet Nam, 16 March 2012 – Over the last decade, the dramatic increase in access to Information and Communication Technologies (ICTs) in Viet Nam has brought unprecedented opportunities – including online learning and connecting with local or global communities – to adolescents and young people.

But this development has also come with a range of digital risks. Cyber-bullying, defamation, exposure to sexually explicit content and privacy violations are just some of risks young users can encounter online, especially when they are ill-prepared and unprotected by legislation. However, too little is still known or done about the use of ICTs and the potential digital safety risks faced by adolescents in Viet Nam.

These risks can best be mitigated, and the benefits best be promoted, by better understanding children’s ICT usage patterns, educating users and supporting national policies to embracing the digital age. UNICEF, in partnership with Yahoo! and the Government of Viet Nam, is gathering information about how young people use ICTs. UNICEF is also collaborating with Junior Reporters’ Clubs throughout the country to conduct interviews, collect opinions and document children and young people’s experiences of Internet use.

Below is an excerpt from one of the reports generated by the young reporters.

By Lê Thị Luyến, Grade 10, Luong Van Chanh Lower Secondary School
 
In Tuy Hoa, Internet shops are mushrooming and packed with teenagers. Not every family can afford access to the Internet at home, but affordable service charges at Internet shops fill the gap and provide the best option for many teenagers.

Teenagers like to explore. Knowing this tendency, some Internet shops are decorated with sexually explicit posters and photos that are meant to catch young people’s attention. Ngoc Anh, from Grade 10 of Luong Van Chanh Lower Secondary School in Tuy Hoa, comments, “In many Internet cafes, we see sexually explicit photos hanging on the walls. This distracts us from learning.”

Not far from here, in Ward 9 of Tuy Hoa, is another internet café packed with students.  There are only a few computers turned on, showing mostly online games. One girl tells me, “I often browse the Internet for learning, listening to music and IOE – an English learning and testing forum hosted by the Ministry of Education and Training.”

At the local Dinh Tien Hoang Lower Secondary School, there is a computer room for learning purposes, such as the ViOlympic contest, an online initiative for maths solutions. All activities are under the control of the computer room manager.

Teenagers’ Internet use needs to be monitored by adults, especially in rural areas because there are few families with Internet access and children mainly use public services. A student tells me, “My home has no Internet. I like using the Internet very much because it facilitates my learning. The teachers’ walking around in the room is sometimes inconvenient but the monitoring is necessary.”

For families who do have access to the Internet, it is often difficult to control their children’s use. There is a need for raising-awareness among children.

 

 
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