Schoolroom spy cams anger Chinese parents, pupils and social media users

Idea to introduce surveillance gadgets so that mums and dads can monitor their youngsters fails to impress

PUBLISHED : Sunday, 01 October, 2017, 6:41pm
UPDATED : Sunday, 01 October, 2017, 6:41pm

A decision by a school in northeastern China to allow parents to watch their children via a live streaming platform has sparked controversy online.

A father of one of the pupils described the idea as “terrifying”.

“Last week my son’s school charged me 100 yuan (US$15) and then gave me a password for a webcam [live-streaming site],” the man from Liaoning province said on Weibo, China’s Twitter-like microblogging site.

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“Today I downloaded an app on my phone and was able to log on to [watch footage from] the surveillance camera in their class,” he said.

The man said he was told by the school that the scheme was introduced so that parents could see how their children were doing at school.

“I can see every second of my son’s class,” he said. “Technology is so terrifying nowadays.”

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Many other social media users criticised the idea for violating the children’s privacy.

“It’s a school, not a prison,” one of the most liked comments said.

Others likened it to Peter Weir’s satirical science fiction film The Truman Show, in which the protagonist discovers his whole life is actually a television show.

In a poll of about 120 parents by Guangzhou Daily, a large majority said they disapproved of the idea, though a third said it would be a good way to learn more about their children and their teachers.

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Not surprisingly, most of the pupils surveyed by the newspaper said they were against the idea.

“It is obviously a violation of our privacy,” one said.

“Installing webcams in the classroom will make me feel very insecure. It is as if we’re putting on a show for the camera,” said another.

Mai Dongzhi, a lawyer from Guangzhou, was quoted as saying that the installation of the cameras in the classrooms was not in itself an intrusion of the pupils’ privacy, but that relaying the footage to parents might be.