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​Parents rattled as baleful videos stalk young minds

By Pham Nga, Hai Hien   March 16, 2021 | 11:44 pm PT
After letting their children freely use mobile phones, many people are troubled that they consume toxic content.

On March 10 members of an online forum for parents were shaken after Tho Nguyen, who has a hugely popular YouTube channel, uploaded two clips about Kuman thong, a Thai occult doll with a macabre background, on TikTok.

In one, Tho said she made a video using a doll to "pray for children to study well" after receiving "many requests from children."

The online community has lambasted Tho.

Pham Lien of Hanoi says, "I know people will realize this is poisoning our children."

Her nephew is affected by such videos on the Internet, she says.

Her grandson, Quan, started using a mobile phone when he was around 10, and since then has been behaving strangely. Once he dumped raw eggs on his father’s head, and, when asked, said, "On YouTube, a boy dumped a bucket of eggs on his mother’s head; I only used a few."

Another time he was watching a violent video on YouTube and told Lien, "This is so good, people attacking others ..."

He said he would love to fight and die for his friends, shocking her.

Watching online videos is a favorite hobby for many children. Photo by VnExpress/Pham Nga.

Watching online videos is a favorite hobby for many children. Photo by VnExpress/Pham Nga.

Nguyen Dong Phuong of Hanoi’s Dong Da District never used to stop his two daughters from watching cartoons on the Internet. Sometimes he would tell the seven-year-old to find videos for her younger sister to watch. One of her favorites was a series of animation videos about a pig on YouTube.

But later he found out there was violent content in those videos, including how to murder someone and to commit suicide.

These videos typically start as a normal cartoon, but later their characters would indulge in violent activities.

Once Phuong’s younger daughter could not sleep and kept asking him why her piggy friend in the video indulged in those violent actions. Sometimes she would wake up in the middle of the night and burst into tears.

But Lien and Phuong are luckier than some parents whose children imitate the violent actions they see online and end up hurting themselves or worse.

In November 2019 a seven-year-old boy in Saigon’s Nha Be District tried to hang himself. He was found unconscious, but was quickly taken to hospital and luckily saved.

He told his parents he wanted to imitate characters from a YouTube video who hang themselves but breathe normally.

A five-year-old girl in Saigon hanged herself to death in October 2020 as did a boy in Dong Nai’s Trang Bom District a month later.

Both families suspected they died after watching online videos that challenge viewers to hang themselves and survive.

Many animation videos on YouTube have contents that are potentially dangerous to children. Photo by VnExpress/Luu Quy.

Many animation videos on YouTube have contents that are potentially dangerous to children. Photo by VnExpress/Luu Quy.

YouTube said in the third quarter of 2020 it removed 7.8 million videos for violating its community guidelines and policies. They included 173,000 with Vietnamese I.P. addresses, the ninth highest in the world.

Most of them were related to pornography, violence or exploitation. Notably, 32 percent of removed videos have wicked content for children.

Dealing with such content requires a lot of patience on the part of parents.

Hanoi educationist Vu Thu Huong says: "Parents should watch entertainment videos together with their children to preclude toxic stuff" but also to strengthen their bonds.

Families must know what their children watch and keep them away from bad content, and in fact parents should guide them on how to choose content, she said.

Lien’s family discussed the boy’s actions and decided to keep him away from mobile phones until he enters high school. There is now no computer in his room, and surfing the web is restricted.

Phuong has stopped letting his younger daughter watch online videos alone and spoken with her, taken her out regularly and bought colorful books hoping they would help her forget the disturbing stuff she had watched.

He has banned the children from watching those videos, and told them to give him a shout if they see any troubling content.

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