Parents told to think before clicking 'send'

Updated: 2013-09-19 23:40

By Cao Yin (China Daily)

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Worries exist

Different from those who frequently show kids' photos online, Che Aiping uses a more conservative way to share pictures of Liu Fu, her 6-year-old son, through Wechat.

The 35-year-old mother in Beijing insists on posting pictures without her child's face shown clearly to maintain more privacy.

She would like to keep up with the multi-media age and have topics for conversation with her university dormitory mates, who have also become mothers.

"But I learned how to set up a scanning limit of the app at the beginning when I was ready to share my son's photos, and I still prefer to upload pictures of the side of his face or back," she said, adding that she became careful after hearing of a classmate's story.

Han, the surname of the classmate who has settled in the United States, often posted pictures of her 18-month-old son, but she found some people using her child's photos on other commercial websites without her permission.

"The mixed-blood boy is so cute, so a few people like taking photos of him when my classmate carries him outside," Che explained. "Maybe some of these passers-by put the child's pictures on a public website, or someone 'stole' the photos via the Internet's loopholes."

"That's the reason why I'm hesitant to expose Liu Fu," she said. "Meanwhile, I don't want my child to learn some unfriendly words someone may post below his pictures online."

In addition, how frequently parents share children's photos and what kind of pictures they select are based on what kind of a life they want to show and what personalities they have, she said.

"Many women turn to family after they marry and have babies. They spend a lot of time at home, intending to present a 'good mother' image to their friends or even the public," she said. But she is not interested about that.

"Showing my true life and thoughts with those who accompany me through life is also my aim in installing the app," she added.

Zhou Guoliang, a 35-year-old father in Tibet, agreed with Che. He thought posting daily life on the Internet sounds like something most mothers do. "Instead, a father's love is more restrained," he said.

The man, an official in a government department, was transferred to Tibet in July, when he started using Wechat to share his life.

"I just want to keep in touch with my colleagues and friends in Beijing via the app, sharing beautiful scenery and telling them my new thoughts about life," he said.

"As for what kind of a family I have and how lovely my son is, posting that is not important, because my buddies know well enough, if they are close to me," he said.

Be sensible parents

Compared with public micro blogs, Wechat seems to provide more private space for users to talk and share photos, but its security is still doubted in the technical industry.

Guan Mochen, a senior technologist with Kingsoft, a company specializing in security software, said every application has technical vulnerabilities that can be easily attacked by hackers or those who benefit from stealing smartphone users' personal information.

"Sometimes it's not a loophole in the app. Instead, it's a mobile platform with high security risks, such as Android," he explained.

More than 80 percent of the malware targets smartphones that use the Android operating system, and most were downloaded through smartphone application stores and forums, according to statistics issued in July from the National Computer Network Emergency Response Technical Team and Coordination Center.

Therefore, users must pay more attention and think twice before uploading information or photos via smartphones, no matter how safe developers say the applications are, according to Guan.

Some special groups, such as big company executives, leaders in governmental administrations and people with commercial or State secrets, must attach more importance when typing or playing on their smartphones, he said.

"Attackers, or opponents, can get more information that is not good for enterprises, or even the country, through the app users' online posts, even if it is a simple word or picture," he added.

Guo Xunping, vice-president of Bangcle, a Beijing company that provides security services for mobile devices, suggested young parents document their kids' lives in safer ways.

Wechat has improved its security and supplied restrictions on what kind of friends app users want to make, "but it's still easily attacked in a technical way," he said.

Many parents with little technological knowledge think the more restrictions an app has, the safer the information, but he said it is a misunderstanding.

In reality, the more functions or channels an app has, the more risks users face, according to him.

"What we do is add friends online with their phone numbers and think it's safe enough, but maybe their mobiles have been monitored by those with bad intentions," he said.

The technical expert, also a father, said he likes to record his daughter's growth in traditional ways, such as writing a diary.

"Different parents have different aims and habits. For me, writing down feelings and pasting photos inside in a notebook is more suitable for me," he added.


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