Mini spies in the classroom strain relations
 Source:shanghaidaily Date:2014-12-22

A smart watch sold on jd.com

EDUCATION has long involved monitoring the activities of students. Now there is a new twist. Parents are equipping young children with surveillance gadgets to snoop on teachers in the classroom.

The trend, say educational specialists, could further strain parent-teacher relations.

Snap-on-the-wrist smart watches enabling remotely controlled dialing or voice recording are easy enough to find on retail platforms.

Staff at one primary school in Shanghai were astonished to discover that “more than a few” first and second graders were wearing monitoring devices, local newspaper Wenhui Daily reported recently.

The report cited one instance when a parent “leaked” to other parents information a teacher had given to a class before the students had even brought the news home. The parent later admitted to eavesdropping via a child’s smart watch.

Some teachers have coined a phrase for such snoopy people. They call them “monster parents,” borrowing the term from a popular Japanese TV series.

Carla Zhu, a Shanghai mother, bought a smart watch for her 3-year-old kindergarten pupil son last month from Taobao. It cost about 400 yuan (US$60).

“If you send a command through an app installed on your phone, the watch will immediately respond and dial your number,” Zhu explained.

Zhu said she was prompted to buy the surveillance gadget because she was concerned about her son being maltreated after seeing angry kindergarten teachers harshly scolding children late for school at the entrance gate.

“The teachers usually report positive things about my boy, but he sometimes tells me he feels unhappy at school,” Zhu said. “He’s too young to understand it all or express himself clearly, so I want to know what really happens to him at the kindergarten.”

Prices of snoop gadgets range from 200-800 yuan, which makes them affordable for typical families. Media reports about incidents of classroom abuse have boosted sales.

Kicking children

In November, a parent in the northeastern city of Shenyang told local media that a recorder placed in her young child’s pencil box picked up unwarranted teacher insults to a class of first-grade pupils.

This month, a surreptitious video was uploaded anonymously online, showing a kindergarten teacher violently kicking children in the legs during outdoor exercise. A subsequent investigation confirmed the teacher had kicked children who refused to dance to the music.

Many teachers have expressed opposition to their young charges snooping on them.

“No teacher would put up with something like that,” said a primary school teacher surnamed Cai, who declined to give her full name, and said she had never come across any such surveillance devices in her 21 years of teaching. “It’s a privacy issue. Nobody enjoys being the subject of eavesdropping.”

Yu Zhiyuan, a lawyer at DeBund Law Offices, said the gadgets don’t infringe on teacher privacy in legal terms.

“Teaching students in a classroom is different from making a private phone call in the office,” Zhu explained.

But he conceded that surveillance gadgets could disrupt the classroom environment by making teachers nervous and unnecessarily on guard.

Schools could take legal action against parents whose children use the gadgets, he added, but that would only further poison relations and ultimately harm the young children involved.

“Some parents nowadays nitpick and make a fuss about anything they don’t like about their children’s teachers,” said Ye Linjuan, Shanghai mother of a 5-year-old daughter in kindergarten.

“It’s important for them to learn to trust. Children with parents prone to distrusting others won’t learn how to develop trust in their lives. That would be very sad for society.”

Overly protective

Some parents have even enrolled their children in exclusive kindergartens with real-time closed-circuit cameras installed in the classroom.

Li Xiaowen, a psychology professor at East China Normal University, said too many parents nowadays are overly protective of their children.

“Traditionally, Chinese education philosophy believes that scoldings from teachers, where appropriate, are good for children, but now even the slightest reprimand gets exaggerated by media and parents,” he said.

“Teachers need to be respected, and parents need to understand that they are not always wiser,” added Li.

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