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Livestreaming in schools raises concerns

Xinhua | Updated: 2017-04-29 16:40

ZHENGZHOU -- Chinese livestreams have broadcast everything from dating to putting on makeup. Now the craze has entered schools and is raising concerns about privacy and child safety.

On Shuidi Zhibo, a livestreaming platform, more than 200 videos show students attending classes, taking exams or playing during breaks.

These videos were recorded on various campuses around the country ranging from kindergartens to senior high schools.

"Someone is playing with a mobile phone," said one comment under a video with more than 34,000 viewers.

"The boy in the last row is napping," another comment followed.

One of the most watched videos was recorded at No. 1 Senior High School in the city of Yuzhou, central China's Henan Province. Principal Wen Mingjian told Xinhua that the school purchased webcams after requests from parents and teachers, to encourage better behavior and prevent bullying.

"Most of our students are left-behind children. Webcams allow their parents to see they are attending school," said Cheng Yafeng, a teacher.

Shi Shuangyan, a migrant worker in Beijing, said he liked to watch his child in class thousands of miles away. However, he opposes livestreaming of the videos, suggesting that they should only be seen by teachers and parents.

Video surveillance is common in Chinese schools, but mainly for security and exam monitoring.

In recent years, livestreaming has turned many ordinary people into overnight celebrities. China has more than 300 livestreaming platforms and more than 340 million people have watched live videos. With such a big market, can anything be broadcast online? The answer is obviously no.

Livestreaming in schools has raised concerns about students' mental health, privacy and safety.

Many students see livestreaming as an violation of their rights. A student from Yuzhou No. 1 Senior High School said: "I hate it. It makes us feel like animals in a zoo."

In a recent survey by iQiyi, an online video platform, around 67 percent of 19,637 interviewees were opposed to livestreaming of classes.

"Publishing videos involving minors, without their consent, invades their privacy," said Yao Weiyao, deputy director of the juvenile protection committee of the All-China Lawyers Association.

In addition to privacy concerns, critics also worry that catching students' every movement on camera may jeopardize their mental health and even their safety.

"It may increase stress on students and is likely to damage their relationships with their parents. No one wants to be monitored all the time," said Zhao Yueling, deputy head of Henan institute of mental health.

Zhao added that parents should consider the effect on their children.

Police in Zhengzhou have suggested schools stop putting pictures of children online as many crimes targeting minors are caused by availability of such information.

Yuzhou No. 1 Senior High School stopped livestreaming after media reports provoked public criticism.

To protect the privacy of minors, Shuidi Zhibo published a statement on its website in late March, advising schools to choose "kindergarten sharing mode" on webcams.

"If teachers choose this mode, only specific groups like parents can watch," the statement said.

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