25 October 2016
Parents lack awareness about issues related to online privacy of their children, a Hong Kong study showed. Photos: HKEJ, Bloomberg
Parents lack awareness about issues related to online privacy of their children, a Hong Kong study showed. Photos: HKEJ, Bloomberg

Watchdog urges more vigilance on children’s online privacy

Hong Kong’s data privacy watchdog has urged parents and teachers to be vigilant about online privacy issues related to children.

In a report released Tuesday, the Office of the Privacy Commissioner for Personal Data (PCPD) warned that children could suffer if their online privacy is neglected through careless posting of photos and other stuff on social media.

Some parents are very active in posting everyday pictures of their children online. Once something is posted, it stays forever in the virtual world, the watchdog reminded.

The children might not be able to take back or delete such personal data when they grow up, it said, according to Ming Pao Daily News.

Some teachers, meanwhile, have resorted to social media sites to monitor their students’ behavior outside school. This is making students feel that their privacy is not being respected, PCPD said in its report.

The watchdog called on parents and teachers to become role models for their children in respecting others’ privacy, and teach them the basic rules of the virtual world.

The PCPD had commissioned the Centre for the Advancement of Social Sciences Research (CASR) of Hong Kong Baptist University to carry out an exploratory study in October 2014.

The study showed that parents and teachers seemed to have little awareness about children’s problems online.

Six focus groups, each comprising six to ten people, were taken in for regular meetings and interviews over a period of three months.

The study showed that many parents would share computers or even email accounts with their children, and that some were even logging in to the children’s social media accounts in order to learn more about their social life.

According to Susanna Pang, Head of Corporate Communications at PCPD, the study showed that both parents and teachers have failed to focus on teaching children the importance of privacy.

Theoretically parents could help their children under the age of 18 make decisions. However, they should remember that data being uploaded to the internet would stay there permanently.

Elvis Ng, youth service manager at Hong Kong Family Welfare Society, said he has seen parents force their children to add them on Facebook friend lists. Such coercion could lead to tense relationships between the children and adults, he said.

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