‘Shar­ent­ing’ isn’t just a pri­vate af­fair

China Daily (Canada) - - LIFE -

Arecent piece of news has taken us by sur­prise. The French Na­tional Gen­darmerie has warned that par­ents could face jail or hefty fines if they post their chil­dren’s pho­to­graphs on Face­book.

Ac­cord­ing to French pri­vacy law, par­ents who post their chil­dren’s pho­tos on Face­book with­out con­sent could be jailed or fined, or even be sued by their chil­dren when they grow up if their off­spring feel their par­ents in­fringed on their right to pri­vacy.

In China, the pri­vacy right is pre­scribed in Ar­ti­cle 2 of the Tort Lawas a sep­a­rate civil right. Any­one who in­fringes on an­other per­son’s pri­vacy rights is sub­ject to le­gal li­a­bil­ity, in­clud­ing a par­ent vi­o­lat­ing his/her chil­dren’s rights.

Legally speak­ing, mi­nors be­cause of their age are un­able to give con­sent for many things, and their rights are gen­er­ally en­trusted to their par­ents or custodians. And eth­i­cally speak­ing, par­ents never mean to harm their chil­dren so pun­ish­ing them for their in­no­cent be­hav­iors could be con­sid­ered a harsh step.

But a wor­ri­some fact is that many par­ents love post­ing their chil­dren’s pho­tos on­line. In fact, a newterm, “over-shar­ent­ing” or “shar­ent­ing” (a com­bi­na­tion of shar­ing and par­ent­ing), was coined in 2013 to re­fer to par­ents who fre­quently up­date their chil­dren’s pho­tos on SNS por­tals. In China, such par­ents are called “crazy demons”.

So let’s do a SWOT anal­y­sis to have a bet­ter un­der­stand­ing of the is­sue.

Strengths: One, it helps cre­ate and main­tain the emo­tional bonds with friends and rel­a­tives. Two, it helps par­ents keep record of ev­ery im­por­tant stage of their chil­dren’s de­vel­op­ment.

Weak­nesses: First is the po­ten­tial iden­tity leak and the sub­se­quent se­cu­rity risk. Pe­dophiles or crim­i­nals can put to­gether in­for­ma­tion on a child ac­cord­ing to its par­ents’ on­line post­ings. Sec­ond, the chil­dren’s pho­tos could be saved and mis­used by child-porn web­sites. Third, some pho­tos could be­come a source of em­bar­rass­ment to the chil­dren when they grow up. Fourth, it could prove very costly to the kids in the fu­ture. Thanks to the de­vel­op­ment of big data, many em­ploy­ers now in­ves­ti­gate can­di­dates’ back­ground on the in­ter­net. So some post­ings re­flect­ing the chil­dren’s bad habits or be­hav­iors could make it dif­fi­cult for them to land a job when they grow up. Some uni­ver­si­ties have started do­ing sim­i­lar back­ground checks be­fore ad­mit­ting can­di­dates. Fifth, “over-shar­ent­ing” is not good for chil­dren’s growth, as they­may feel de­pressed in case their post­ings re­ceive neg­a­tive com­ments. And sixth, “over-shar­ent­ing” builds a kind of at­ten­tion-seek­ing com­pe­ti­tion at­mos­phere that pushes par­ents to com­pete by pro­ject­ing their chil­dren’s beauty and smart­ness, which may hurt the feel­ings of other par­ents.

Op­por­tu­ni­ties: SNS op­er­a­tors pro­vide group­ing and pri­va­cy­set­ting tools that can help par­ents group on­line con­tacts to tweet in­for­ma­tion pre­cisely to those who they are fa­mil­iar with. And cer­tain SNS op­er­a­tors have started tak­ing pre­cau­tion­ary mea­sures such as us­ing pop-up no­tices to warn a per­son post­ing his/her chil­dren’s pho­tos.

Threats: Since the pri­vacy law in China is not clear on whether par­ents can di­rectly post their chil­dren’s pho­tos or videos on­line with­out con­sent, and since there are no clear pe­nal pro­vi­sions, it is not easy to use le­gal means to curb “shar­ent­ing”. Sec­ond, post­ing kids’ pho­tos on­line has­be­comea fad which can­not be re­versed in a short time, and­many peo­ple­have not re­al­ized the po­ten­tial­harmthe prac­tice could cause. Third, with the de­vel­op­ment of fa­cial iden­ti­fi­ca­tion tech­nol­ogy, crim­i­nals can iden­tify the chil­dren through their pho­tos. And­last, do­mes­ticSNS op­er­a­tor­shaven’t re­al­ized the risk and­taken pre­ven­tive steps ac­cord­ingly.

So us­ing legalmean­sis not the best­way to curb “shar­ent­ing”. Base­dontheSWOT­anal­y­sis, we can safely say that post­ing chil­dren’s pho­tos on­line is un­der­stand­able but­mustbedonecare­fully andspar­ingly. It is ad­vis­able that par­ents not share toomuch­in­for­ma­tion about their chil­dren, be­cause the­mor­e­in­for­ma­tion, in­clud­ing pho­tos, you share with oth­ers, the­moreprob­lems you could cre­ate for the kids in the fu­ture.

The au­thor is a fel­low with the re­search of­fice of Shunyi dis­trict peo­ple’s court in Bei­jing.

LI FENG/ CHINA DAILY

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