Van of Cau Giay District in Hanoi was shocked to discover her 12-year-old son’s computer containing links to pornographic websites.
His teacher had told her that her son, who is in seventh grade, was poor academically, frequently dozed and was not paying attention in class.
She became suspicious and checked the history on her son’s computer and discovered a number of pornographic websites there. For months the boy had been visiting these websites and consuming sexual content every day.
Van says: “I was taken aback. I thought my child was attending online classes, but it turns out he spent hours every day watching pornography”.
She called him to his room to ask. He said the entire class watched them and often sent links and videos to each other. Anyone who did not watch them would be dubbed “uncool,” he said further.
Van was shocked and in distraught at hearing the explanation despite having heard many similar stories from a psychologist friend.
After calming herself down, she decided to speak to him but nicely because she had been warned of the consequences if she acted “insensitively”.
Another woman in Hanoi’s Hoang Mai District was enraged after finding out her daughter in ninth grade had been watching porn on her phone.
She could not believe that her high-achieving good-natured child was doing this.
She scolded and spanked her and seized the phone.
This just had the effect of making the girl defiant, and she threatened to drop out of school. She did not communicate with her parents and refused to even eat with them, creating a tense atmosphere at home.
Hoang Dieu Linh, academic director at WeGrow, an organization that provides comprehensive sex education programs for children and schools, was invited to come over and speak to the girl.
She says it took her a long time to persuade the girl to agree to a private conversation because she no longer trusted anyone after the incident and tried to isolate herself.
She says: “The little girl cried saying her mother scolded her harshly and controlled everything she did, which resulted in psychological repression. She told me she wanted to drop out of school as payback for what her mother did to her”.
A 2020 survey by the United Nations Children’s Fund found that 49 percent of minors were exposed to online pornography.
Children accessing pornography websites at a young age is quite common in Vietnam, Linh says.
Every day she and her colleagues at WeGrow receive some 100 requests for consultation. When parents call in, their biggest complaints are their children watching porn or masturbating.
According to Linh, the majority of parents are shocked, disappointed, scared, and confused about how to handle the situation.
She once met a mother who came to see her in a state of panic after discovering her eight-year-old son was watching porn on her phone.
He could even delete the history. The mother only found out after the boy was “careless” and forgot to erase the history one day.
Linh claims that because parents find it difficult to accept that their children are exposed to porn, they create a mentality in which sex is forbidden so that their children develop negative attitudes toward watching porn.
Parents deem watching porn morally wrong rather than seriously consider the risk of their children being scammed, sexually harassed or bullied, she says.
Many do not equip themselves with proper methods to teach their kids about sex education, and that is why they handle the situation poorly, she explains.
“Acceptance is a normal psychological need,” La Linh Nga, director of the Psycho-Pedagogy Research And Application Center, says.
“During puberty, children develop a natural desire to learn about this problem. Parents should put themselves in their children’s shoes, remembering their own needs when they were at their age”.
Nga cited a 2018 study that said teenagers found it uncomfortable when discussing sex with their parents, and were more open with other relatives, especially of the same sex.
So parents should enlist the help of their children’s siblings and relatives whom their children trust to guide them on this topic, she said.
According to experts, instead of controlling and hurting their children with offensive words when they are angry, parents should equip their children with knowledge when watching porn.
Furthermore, parents must instill trust in their children by demonstrating to them that they are willing to share in their efforts to change.
Van went to see a counselor after talking privately with her son and bought sex education books for parents and kids to learn as a family. She allowed him to attend sex education classes and encouraged him to participate in sports and extracurricular activities.
She notices now that he has changed, focusing more on studies, and is passionate about sports.
She is less strict now that he is in 10th grade, but she believes she still needs to “keep an eye” on him.
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