In November, 2009, a 14-year-old girl was found dead in a grassy lot in Nghe An City, Vietnam five days after she left home to meet a “friend” whom she had met on a social networking site. The suspect is a 41-year-old man who authorities say posed as a 20-year-old on the internet to lure the young girl. After gaining her trust, the two started exchanging text messages and after a few weeks, they arranged to meet in the riverside where he allegedly sexually assaulted and killed her.
Sadly, this is not an isolated story. Vietnamese teenagers use social networks and online games while not understanding much about how to properly protect themselves in this digital world.
IBM employee Duong Kieu Oanh partnered with the Center for Research Family Health and Community (CEFACOM) to develop an Internet Safety Education curriculum. The program aims to equip students with the skills and ability to identify potential risks from the Internet, and then shows them ways to stay safe.
Together, in Hanoi and Ho Chi Minh City, they have worked to screen schools and students, identifying students’ knowledge gaps and sources of risks. Based on the findings, Duong from IBM and CEFACOM developed a four-session training curriculum to address risks from social networks/forums and online games – the two types of Internet applications the students access most often.
“The project is about helping vulnerable children to overcome the problems society neglects,” said Tran Nguyen Vu, one of 102 IBM employees in Vietnam who contributed over 700 volunteer hours to deliver nearly 100 sessions on Internet safety. “I shared the case of a girl being abused after meeting someone on the Internet, and asked them how they would feel if they knew the girl – or were that girl. The children were dumbfounded, and took the lessons seriously.”
In 100 sessions, IBM volunteers reached 1,500 pupils at the four schools in Hanoi and Ho Chi Minh City. However, the group applied for and won an IBM Catalyst Grant. With the US$10,000 grant, IBM and CEFACOM are planning to expand the project to reach more than 5,000 students and to develop additional curriculum which will help students take advantage of the educational information and opportunities available on the Internet.
IBM is marking its centennial year with a worldwide celebration of volunteer service. Throughout 2011, IBM invites everyone to join our global community of employees, retirees, families and friends as we support the communities where we work, live and learn together.