Imagine you are a father or mother relaxing at home believing that you are safe in the knowledge that your two teenage girls are upstairs, having harmless fun with friends on social networking sites.
But you have had a nagging doubt for a while and decide to keep an eye on them once in a while. They are impressionable young girls after all who can get themselves into trouble with amorous young males, if they are not careful.
You have managed to secretly join their friends’ list and decide to see what is going on. You log on to your smartphone and there standing before you is your worst nightmare.
Your daughter - nude. Now that is bad enough but not only is she naked but she is offering herself for sale to any bidder able to come up with VND4 million. Two hundred dollars to go in a cheap hotel room with your little angel. Two hundred dollars. You can just imagine how they would feel.
This is not just scaremongering, though, this is happening in Vietnam right now. So come back from behind the curtains parents, wake up to the reality of social networking and real life. You might think you know what your sons and daughters are doing online but you don’t know the half of it. I shudder to think how I would cope with bringing up teenagers, some even younger these days, desperately wanting mobile phones, Ipads and with them comes access to the internet and the awaiting beasts, lurking behind the personas of similar aged boys as they get ready to groom young boys and girls.
In some ways, I am actually glad I am not a parent when you see headlines like the ones that rocked a nation to its core recently when a 20-year-old Facebook madam was revealed to Vietnam.
Hanoi police arrested Do Thi Huyen who was charged with running a prostitution ring on Facebook – the first case of its kind on the social networking site in this country.
Huyen, the young madam, uploaded sexually explicit images of herself and her business associates on the site. According to Tien Phong, customers were given a price after they chose a girl they like and the only stipulation is that they take the girls to at least a three-star hotel. These girls are not that cheap.
The girls allegedly charged VND4 million (US$200) for sexual services, one million ($50) of which went to Huyen for her advertising services, not bad eh, according to police.
After watching her in action online for about four weeks, the police nabbed Huyen and an associate soliciting themselves at a hotel on Mai Hac De Street, Hai Ba Trung District last month.
However, according to a senior police source on Tien Phong, prostitutes only get administrative fines for advertising or selling themselves. In this particular case, they were fined only VND100,000 ($5) to VND300,000 ($15).
Hardly a deterrent when they can make that kind of money in seconds.
I had a discussion the other day with a group of friends, when one piped up to claim that any photograph that you post online on Facebook, the company automatically owns fifty per cent of the copyright.
So what happens if one of these social networking firms has the ‘copyright’ to a nude picture of an underage girl? They are supposed to be monitoring these pages after all.
Pornography, sexual images and nudity is now rampant on Facebook in Vietnam, with most of the account users young people, including teenagers. They post nude images of themselves or with girlfriends or boyfriends to attract ‘likes’ from the online community. The likes obsession is not as weird as it sounds, as the more likes you have on your page, then you can maybe start to make money from advertising.
Some even promise that they will keep posting sex clips if they receive 30,000 ‘likes’. In another case last week a young man named Manh Tran posted pictures of himself and his girlfriend wrapped in a bath towel with the caption, “If we get 30k ‘likes’ we will post our clip, OK darling?” After a couple of days, the image had received over 30,000 ‘likes’.
These pages are not hard to find as if you type in nguoi lon (adult) or lau xanh (brothel), hundreds of community pages appear, with numerous sexual pictures and stories.
On a locally-based site a female user named Yen Nhi posted a link Clip nong sinh vien vao hotel (Hot clip of students in hotel). Nhi’s page has 4.5 million members.
Similar groups and communities have mushroomed on social networks, where a user only needs a few minutes to set up their own page.
This shock news again brought it home to parents whose worst fears are being realized on a daily basis. They cannot control what goes on online. They just have to hope and pray that they have brought up their children well enough to make the right decisions for themselves.
In Vietnam, though, it seems to some that money is everything and it doesn’t matter what some young people have to do, they will literally do anything for money.