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Overprotection or privacy violation?

Last week, many people, especially parents, were shocked to hear the news that a 13-year-old girl in HCM City had tried to commit suicide by jumping from the 8th floor of an apartment building.

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Fortunately, she did not die, but suffered serious liver damage.

She told doctors that she jumped because she was angry with her mother for checking her mobile phone without asking for permission.

The girl's extreme response is a common theme, with many Vietnamese parents thinking they should be checking their children's mobile devices.

According to psychology experts, the mother had violated the girl’s privacy.

But sadly, many Vietnamese parents think it is their right to do so because they want to control their children. They want to know where their sons and daughters go, who their friends are, and what they talk about with them.

“This was a serious incident and parents must stop violating their children’s privacy,” Dr Pham Thi Thuy, an expert on sociology and psychotherapy, told Thanh Niên (Young People) newspaper.
“The girl’s cry for help was a warning to all parents who have teenage children,” she said.

According to the expert, during puberty and a transitional stage in life, children wanted to establish themselves as individuals. They were vulnerable and narcissistic, so just a small mental or physical violation could make them explode.

“At that age, children are still immature so extreme control by parents or adults can force them to think about leaving home, physically hurting themselves or even suicidal behaviour,” Thuy said.

Parents’ care

However, parents have differing opinions.

Some believed that privacy must be respected, even if they are their sons or daughters.

“You cannot violate a child's privacy in the name of parental love and care,” said Le My Hanh, a 50-year-old woman.

“No one wants to be controlled, even adults, so let the children grow up freely and confidently,” Hanh added.

But many others disagreed with Hanh and argued that the society nowadays holds many pitfalls that children are unaware of.

“I think children always need protection from their parents,” said Tran Thanh Ha, the mother of an eighth grader in Hanoi’s Cau Giay District.

“Teenagers are at a mid-point stage in their lives. I want to know everything about my daughter’s life so I can advise her before she makes the wrong decisions or relationships,” Ha said.

She regularly checks her daughter's diary, Facebook account and text messages, but her daughter doesn't know.

Van Anh from Thanh Xuan District has the same opinion. “I don't think checking my son's mobile phone is a bad thing. I just want to make sure he's not looking at bad websites or chatting with bad guys.”

As a result, her son now rarely talks to her.

As a mother of two girls, I am torn between the two viewpoints.

Children’s voices

Parents always want to have the best for their children.

But the way we do it can be counterproductive.

Sometimes we try to overbear our children.

“I felt tired of my mum looking over my shoulder and being overprotective. Sometimes I feel hurt because I think she doesn't trust me at all,” said Anh Thu, Ha’s daughter.

“She doesn't understand that children also need privacy,” she said.

“When I see my mum checking my phone and Facebook account, I pretend I haven't, but change the passwords anyway,” said the girl.

12-year-old Nguyen Gia Khoa has a tough attitude towards privacy violations.

“Parents must respect their children’s privacy,” Khoa said.

“I feel annoyed when my parents come to my room without knocking. They want to make sure that I am doing my homework,” he said. “I wonder why they can't be straight with me. I am growing up.”

Children have their own secrets they do not want to disclose to parents, according to Dr Thuy.

Their secrets might be normal for adults but serious for adolescents.

“Respect children and their privacy, be good friends with them, but don't try to control them,” Thuy advised. – VNS

Chu Lan Huong

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