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What if you look like a celebrity? How can that influence your life?
Fan Xiaoqin, an 8-year-old boy from Yongfeng county in East China's Jiangxi province, can answer these questions. Over the past few weeks, he has become well－known on domestic social media networks because he looks exactly like Jack Ma, founder and executive chairman of Alibaba.
Fan's remarkable resemblance to Ma has had a huge influence on his life. After he became popular on social media, many self-claimed reporters have visited his home to either take his photographs or webcast live. Most of the reporters have brought him small gifts or paid him some money; there are so many of them that the small village even experienced a traffic jam－the first time in history.
But these "reporters" and "webcasters" should not be mistaken for people out to spread love. In reality, they are trying to attract eyeballs by using Fan's popularity, so that they can make a profit by selling advertisements in their future programs. In other words, they hope to exploit Fan, or his popularity, for their own gain.
Fan is not the only child to be exploited this way. As audiences get tired of old speculation tricks, some video programs shift their focus on children. On a live show, Where are we going, Dad?, broadcast by Hunan Satellite TV, the producers arranged for a 4-year-old girl to spend entire days and nights with a 23-year-old man. The program even speculated on the close relationship between them－with nauseating implications－to attract more eyeballs. Another TV show used a girl as young as 2 years old to perform artistic gymnastics.
Such programs are harmful to children.
Fan needs better education in order to change his life, and if anybody really wants to help him, he/she should provide funds to enable him go to a better school. Yet no one has done so. On the contrary, Fan has been so busy entertaining visitors that he hardly has time to go to school, which could ruin his education and, in turn, his future.
A 4-year-old girl (or boy) should be under the protection of her parents instead of being forced to stay with a grownup man day and night on a TV program where her safety could be compromised. Worse, if other young girls were to follow her example, they could be exposed to sexual abuse.
Some may argue the children joined the programs self-willingly. But how can a young child differentiate between good and evil, and know what is bad for its safety and health.
The exploitation of children on video programs is far more detrimental than other forms of human exploitation, because they set bad examples which others could follow. However, it is difficult to label the program organizers' acts as harmful, because they could say they are "helping the children become stars".
In such a case, the judiciary needs to explain in detail the Law of the Protection of Juveniles so as to prevent such programs from being produced and broadcast again.
Besides, the video industry needs to be better regulated. The industry developed so fast that no specific law has yet been enacted to regulate it. For years it has grown wildly and video-makers compete with each other to inject more pulp contents in their programs to attract more eyeballs. Sometimes they intentionally publish some controversial contents for this purpose.
For example, some webcasters on live webcast platform Kuaishou have long been accused of recruiting children to give unsuitable performances, but Kuaishou did not delete their accounts because the controversy drew people from across the country to the app.
It is time people producing such shows were made accountable to a specific law.
The author is a writer with China Daily. email@example.com