‘Shar­ent­ing’ — Par­ent­ing in the Dig­i­tal Age

Manila Times - - Opinion - BY TERESE RAY ANNE O. AQUINO Whatarethe­un­in­tend­ed­con­se­quences post­pho­tos/videosoft­he­mon­line? Shar­ent­ing:Chil­dren’sPri­va­cyin theA­ge­ofSo­cialMe­dia What­can­chil­dren­dounderthelaw iftheirown­par­entspost­pho­tos/ videosoft­he­mon­line? Theau­tho­risas­e­nior­part­nerat Es­tra

THIS ques­tion was raised dur­ing one of my lec­tures on Data Pri­vacy Act:

Scar­let Snow Belo, 3 years old, has al­ready gar­nered 2.7 mil­lion fol­low­ers in her In­sta­gram ac­count. Her life has been an open-book to ev­ery­one, in­clud­ing me. Her fol­low­ers know her fa­vorite food, fa­vorite toys, her ac­tiv­i­ties, where she spends her va­ca­tion and what she does “ATM” or at the mo­ment. For the 2.7 mil­lion fol­low­ers, the life of Scar­let has been part of their ev­ery­day lives. While we ad­mire her wit­ti­ness and cute­ness, it is un­likely that it is Scar­let who is ac­tu­ally do­ing the so­cial me­dia posts her­self. It is even more doubt­ful whether Scar­let her­self cre­ated and con­trols her In­sta­gram ac­count. If it is not Scar­let her­self, then who could be do­ing this on her be­half? And how can a three­year-old con­sent to all such post­ings? I won­der if she al­ready un­der­stands the con­se­quences of her pres­ence in so­cial me­dia and whether she knows that she too, at her ten­der age, and like ev­ery­one else, should en­joy the fun­da­men­tal right to pri­vacy.

Par­ents are the num­ber one pro­tec­tors of their chil­dren. Their parental in­stinct dic­tates what’s best for their chil­dren. But with­out the proper in­for­ma­tion and guid­ance, par­ents also have the propen­sity of putting their chil­dren at risk of per­sonal pri­vacy in­tru­sion or vi­o­la­tion in so­cial me­dia and cy­berspace.


“Shar­ent­ing” is a term used to de­scribe the ways many par­ents share de­tails about their chil­dren’s lives on­line. In a jour­nal ti­tled

(Stein­berg, 2017), the au­thor raised the is­sue that there is an am­ple dis­cus­sion fo­cused on the threats chil­dren face when they are on­line, and yet lit­tle dis­cus­sion is cen­tered at the par­ents’ choices to pub­lish in­for­ma­tion about their chil­dren in the vir­tual world and its ef­fects. I agree with the au­thor, es­pe­cially now that par­ents are into vlog­ging the daily ac­tiv­i­ties of their chil­dren, their health, and be­hav­ioral is­sues; they share prac­ti­cally any­thing about their child as of­ten as they up­date their IG sto­ries, Face­book posts, or Twit­ter sta­tus. This mat­ter is left uncheck as it in­volves the con­sti­tu­tion­ally guar­an­teed right of par­ents to di­rect the up­bring­ing of their chil­dren. And we ex­pect par­ents to be the gate­keep­ers of their chil­dren’s per­sonal in­for­ma­tion.

Over­shar­ing in the in­for­ma­tion age

Post­ing pho­tos of chil­dren on­line cre­ates a pri­vacy risk and this is some­thing left un­re­al­ized by most of the par­ents. In Eu­rope, a mother posted a photo of her daugh­ter on Face­book and soon af­ter, she dis­cov­ered that the photo of her child was taken and used as home­page photo of a cer­tain web­site. They call this “dig­i­tal kid­nap­ping.” This per­tains to iden­tity theft that tar­gets mi­nors; it oc­curs when a stranger, fol­lower or liker steals a photo of a mi­nor from the in­ter­net posts and makes it as if it is his or her own.

Parental over­shar­ing does not re­fer to par­ents dis­cussing their kids with friends and fam­ily. Two cri­te­ria must be present: First, the chil­dren

needs to be an am­bi­tion to reach a mass au­di­ence (Bovy, 2013).

Nec­es­sary in parental over­shar­ing is the in­tent to reach a wide num­ber of au­di­ences. This could be ap­par­ent in in­stances where par­ents cre­ate their child’s own so­cial me­dia ac­count, shoot episodes of their kid’s daily ac­tiv­ity; and post pho­tos and videos that would be en­gag­ing to pub­lic, that would gar­ner lik­ers and shares. This parental over­shar­ing has been crit­i­cized as some­thing that goes be­yond shar­ing to ex­ploita­tion of their own chil­dren (Bovy, 2013). While par­ents over­share in­no­cently the per­sonal in­for­ma­tion of their chil­dren on­line, ex­ploita­tion is an in­evitable con­se­quence of it, for in­stance, when par­ents use their kids for mar­ket­ing pur­poses to gain popu-

Whether the post is pos­i­tive or not, the po­ten­tial harms and risk brought by the In­ter­net can­not be de­nied.

The ef­fects of parental over­shar­ing and shar­ent­ing span as th­ese chil­dren reach adult­hood. By hav­ing their par­ents choose for them a celebrity/show­biz life, chil­dren will be left with no choice but to em­brace this kind of life when they grow old. Scar­let is just among of the many kids be­ing raised in the so­cial me­dia spot­light. Scar­let is con­sid­ered a

her life is be­com­ing part of pub­lic do­main to which peo­ple can just talk about in the ex­er­cise of their right to free speech and ex­pres­sion.

Par­ents’ pri­mary duty to rear their child

The 1987 Con­sti­tu­tion rec­og­nizes the nat­u­ral and pri­mary right and duty of par­ents in the rear­ing of their chil­dren (Ar­ti­cle 2, Sec­tion 12). Parental Au­thor­ity un­der the Fam­ily Code in­cludes the right of the par­ent over the per­son and prop­erty of his/her child. Par­ents have the re­spon­si­bil­ity to care for and rear their chil­dren for civic con­scious­ness

of their mo­ral, men­tal and phys­i­cal char­ac­ter and well-be­ing. Pur­suant to this parental au­thor­ity, it is also in­cum­bent upon the par­ents to pro­tect the pri­vacy of their chil­dren. In fact, it is through the as­sis­tance of par­ents that a child can validly give con­sent to the pro­cess­ing of his or her per­sonal in­for­ma­tion.

As the chil­dren em­brace the In­ter­net and dig­i­tal tech­nolo­gies, par­ents are more crit­i­cal in reg­u­lat­ing their child’s be­hav­ior on­line as they fear in­ci­dents of cy­ber­bul­ly­ing, sex­ting, ha­rass­ment, and the like. But par­ents fail to ex­am­ine upon them­selves if what they are do­ing with their chil­dren’s in­for­ma­tion has a far-reach­ing ef­fect as their chil­dren grow up. As adults, we are so care­ful about leav­ing our dig­i­tal foot­prints on­line; we have the op­tion to limit the au­di­ence of our post; we

in a man­ner that we want to. But for a child like Scar­let, does she re­ally have a choice? Even be­fore reach­ing 5 years old, her dig­i­tal foot­print is all over the In­ter­net and it is some­thing that will re­main for­ever. And it is not only Scar­let; a lot of peo­ple are shar­ing sono­grams of their chil­dren and thus, they are cre­at­ing the so­cial me­dia pres­ence of their chil­dren even be­fore they can have a glimpse of the real world.

Our Con­sti­tu­tion and Fam­ily Code rely upon the par­ents to pro­tect the in­ter­est of their chil­dren. In this in­for­ma­tion age, the guid­ance and pro­tec­tion of par­ents are needed. Our data pri­vacy law has noth­ing to pro­tect th­ese chil­dren from parental over­shar­ing and shar­ent­ing; ex­cept in cases when th­ese chil­dren in­voke their right to be for­got­ten, i.e., a le­gal mech­a­nism to com­pel per­ma­nent re­moval of their per­sonal in­for­ma­tion from on­line data­bases (such as google search en­gine).

Cul­ture of Pri­vacy

The en­act­ment of the Data Pri­vacy Act of 2012 (DPA) is a gi­ant leap in cul­ti­vat­ing the cul­ture of pri­vacy in the Philip­pines. We must ad­mit, un­like in Eu­ro­pean coun­tries where pri­vacy is a norm, we live and grew up in a coun­try that gives lit­tle re­gard to pri­vacy. But with DPA, there is at least a con­scious ef­fort to pro­tect one’s pri­vacy es­pe­cially in terms of the abil­ity to con­trol in­for­ma­tion about one’s self. How­ever, the law is geared to­wards pro­tec­tion of per­sonal in­for­ma­tion pro­cessed by third par­ties, such as schools and hospi­tals, and not by par­ents, who are act­ing in their per­sonal ca­pac­ity. For schools and other en­ti­ties, they are now cir­cum­spect be­fore shar­ing the child’s in­for­ma­tion. If schools neg­li­gently dis­close cer­tain in­for­ma­tion about the child, a par­ent would usu­ally be out­raged for hav­ing vi­o­lated the child’s right to in­for­ma­tion pri­vacy. And yet, they are un­stop­pable when it comes to shar­ing the per­sonal lives of their chil­dren.

The law ap­plies to per­sonal in­for­ma­tion con­troller and pro­ces­sors. “Per­sonal in­for­ma­tion con­troller” (“Data con­troller”) refers to a per­son or or­ga­ni­za­tion who con­trols the col­lec­tion, hold­ing, pro­cess­ing or use of per­sonal in­for­ma­tion. The term ex­cludes an in­di­vid­ual who col­lects, holds, pro­cesses, or uses per­sonal in­for­ma­tion in con­nec­tion with the in­di­vid­ual’s per­sonal, fam­ily or house­hold af­fairs. Cer­tainly, par­ents are not act­ing as data con­trollers when­ever they share and dis­close per­sonal in­for­ma­tion of their chil­dren on­line. This kind of pro­cess­ing can be per­ceived as per­sonal, fam­ily or house­hold af­fairs. Since par­ents can­not be con­sid­ered as data con­trollers, over­shar­ing and shar­ent­ing are not cov­ered un­der DPA. DPA is not in­tended to ad­dress this kind of sit­u­a­tion, nei­ther it is in­tended to ham­per the nat­u­ral and fun­da­men­tal right of par­ents to rear their chil­dren.

Mo­ral Obli­ga­tion

As re­gards the par­ents’ shar­ing per­sonal in­for­ma­tion of their chil­dren, our laws do not af­ford pro­tec­tion against shar­ent­ing or over­shar­ing. Most likely, leg­is­la­tors will be hes­i­tant too to pro­pose one as this will di­rectly collide with the con­sti­tu­tional rights of the par­ents to di­rect the up­bring­ing of their chil­dren. Per­haps this is the mo­ral obli­ga­tion and re­spon­si­bil­ity of the par­ents — to re­spon­si­bly act when­ever they share the lives of their chil­dren on­line. I am not say­ing that it is en­tirely wrong to share pho­tos of chil­dren on­line. I must ad­mit that I am guilty as well ev­ery time I post pho­tos of my adorable twin nieces and nephew in In­sta­gram and Face­book. While shar­ing things that mat­ter to us on­line, in­clud­ing kids that give us so much joy, is be­com­ing a way of life, we must know when shar­ent­ing or shar­ing is too much to the point of ex­ploit­ing them. We should ex­am­ine our in­tent and the con­tent of our posts be­fore we share in­for­ma­tion about them; and ask our­selves whether this is some­thing my child would want to see when he or she grows up and whether this is some­thing that will fos­ter healthy child de­vel­op­ment.

In this dig­i­tal age, it is not only the chil­dren who should be taught how to use so­cial me­dia re­spon­si­bly. Par­ents, too, must be taught of the dan­gers of over­shar­ing and shar­ent­ing and the value of pri­vacy.

that a child ex­pe­ri­ences is through his fam­ily and it is his own fam­ily where he should learn the value and im­por­tance of pri­vacy. Cre­at­ing a cul­ture of pri­vacy re­quires chang­ing one’s mind­set. If we want to cre­ate a na­tion that val­ues pri­vacy, we must start in our own house­holds. We must in­still on our chil­dren the value of pri­vacy and be fore­front in pro­tect­ing their right to pri­vacy.

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