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Tokyo ward education board slammed for password request in schoolkids' social media leaflet

The "social media Nerima Ward rules" leaflet is seen with the password section included. (Mainichi)

TOKYO -- The board of education at the Nerima Ward Office in Japan's capital has caused a stir after its "social media Nerima Ward rules" leaflet encouraging families to create rules for children's social media use to submit to schools included a section for writing down social media account passwords.

    The ward office's education board did notify local elementary and junior high schools that "in cases where households do submit the leaflets (to schools), please ensure they provide them without the passwords included." But in November, one municipal junior school forgot about the note, and it was found that a situation arose in which the school was able to find out children's passwords. The education board has reportedly called on schools to implement measures to prevent a reoccurrence.

    According to the education board, the four-page leaflet on Nerima Ward social media rules began distribution to the ward's 98 elementary and junior schools from June 2020. They are intended to improve children's information ethics and prevent incidents.

    As part of a "my family's social media rules" section, the pamphlet includes a series of rules with empty spaces for households to fill in, including: "My smartphone, social media time will be __ hour(s) per day," and, "My smartphones and social media can be used until __ o'clock." The scheme aims to encourage appropriate usage by having each household fill in the rules.

    But there is also a passage that reads "my social media password is _____." At a meeting of the ward education board, some said that it was "not appropriate that schools could come to know the passwords." Because of this, the ward education board sent an advisory in August 2020 asking each school to request submissions with the password section left blank, erased or covered.

    However, on Nov. 19 this year, one ward-run junior high school reportedly forgot to tell students that the password section did not need filling in when it requested that first- and second-year students submit the leaflet.

    A Nov. 30 inquiry from a student's guardian alerted the school to the issue. As of Dec. 2, it had received completed leaflets from 276 students, but because the documents are kept in a locked part of the school, it was said that the passwords have not been leaked. The ward education board has said it will delete the password section from the leaflet's future printings.

    Kazuo Hori, head of the ward education board, apologized in a statement: "When seeking submissions from households we advised them not to complete the password section, but it was not a thorough approach. We will thoroughly implement a plan to prevent reoccurrences, and wish that something like this never happens again. I wish to apologize to the affected school's students, their guardians and related parties for causing great inconvenience and concern."

    On Twitter, there was a stream of posts from users criticizing the section requiring students to enter their passwords on the leaflet on Nerima Ward social media rules, including: "This is such a human rights infringement that there are no words."

    (Japanese original by Tamami Kawakami, Foreign News Department)

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