‘Sharenting’ isn’t just a private affair
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.