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Vietnam youths struggle with cyberbullying, no help forthcoming

By Sen    September 9, 2019 | 04:45 pm PT
Vietnam youths struggle with cyberbullying, no help forthcoming
A young man uses his phone at home in Ho Chi Minh City. Photo by VnExpress/Quynh Tran.
A fifth of young Vietnamese are bullied online but most do not know how to find professional help for this, a UNICEF survey has found.

Seventy percent of young Vietnamese respondents told the Violence against Children survey, which was released last week, they were not aware of any helpline or service in case of cyberbullying.

A total of 170,000 people aged 13 to 24 were polled in 30 countries. This included 1,788 in Vietnam, where 21 percent said they had been victimized by online bullying.

The rates in neighboring countries were much higher, including 45 percent in Indonesia and 30 percent in Malaysia.

Tellingly, almost half of the Vietnamese respondents said they knew about private online groups inside the school community where information about peers was shared for bullying.

But 96 percent said they have not used technology or digital platforms to harass or bully others, with only 4 percent admitting they have.

The survey notwithstanding, the reality is that there is limited data or evidence on cyberbullying and online child abuse and exploitation in Vietnam, Rana Flowers, UNICEF Representative in Vietnam, told VnExpress International.

But the online risks are evident. Sexual grooming, luring, exploitation and abuse, both online and offline, and exposure to inappropriate, violent and hateful content are frequently reported. 

Thirteen percent of Vietnamese said the violence between young people happened in online games, while 68 percent pointed to social networks, mostly Facebook, as the bullying arena, according to the UNICEF survey.

The verbal insults were publicly posted online (32 percent) or sent via private messages (24 percent), the 197 Vietnamese respondents who replied to a question on whether the bullying is public or private, said.

Cyberbullying can be in the form of violence and aggression online, and it has a negative and long-term impact on children affected by or involved as bullies, victims or witnesses, Flowers said.

Online bullying can also take the form of boycotting through setting up anti-groups, making up stories or rumors or threats to disseminate sensitive images.

Ill-equipped to tackle online violence

The survey asked the respondents who was responsible for preventing cyberbullying.

In Vietnam, 44 percent thought the answer to the problem was they themselves, while 30 percent believed it was the government’s job. Some said the responsibility lay with Internet companies (14 percent) and schools (12 percent).

However, even important figures in young people’s lives are not knowledgeable about this issue or how to handle it.

Flowers said: "Parents and children in Vietnam don't necessarily perceive cyberbullying as a serious concern. When asked about on-line risks – parents worry about gaming, screen time – but they are distant from and uninformed about the dangers and risks their children face."

This is coupled with the fact that older generations are scrambling to catch up with the technological sophistication of their juniors, said Flowers.

They are generally lack the understanding that online risks like bullying, sexual abuse and exploitation and that non-physical abuse can also have a damaging and long-lasting impact on a child’s well-being, she said.

There are 62 million active social media users in Vietnam, or nearly two-thirds of the country’s population. Of them, six million were Facebook and Instagram users under the age of 18.

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