In the ever changing online world a new word is becoming more commonly used. It is “sharenting”. Every other day, alongside pictures of puppies and food, many parents take to social media with photos and status updates celebrating the lives of their children.
Recent research has revealed that 42% of UK parents share photos of their children online with more than 80% of children having an online presence by the age of two. A report from OFCAM, while confirming many parents do share images of their children online, 56% do not, to protect their childrens’ private lives.
There are concerns about “oversharenting” which could result in the identification of a child’s home, childcare or play location or disclosure of identifying information which could pose risks to the child. CBBC Newsround warned that a quarter of all children who have had their photos “sharented” have been embarrassed or worried by this. For the most part the fallout from “sharenting” may only be a stroppy teenager horrified at their parents tagging them in posts which perhaps do not show them up in the most flattering light. This is readily resolved by having the offending photo removed.
But in its 2017 manifesto the Conservative party pledged to:
Give people new rights to ensure they are in control of their own data, including the ability to require major social media platforms to delete information.
The primary purpose of the recent data protection bill is to bring the new EU General Data Protection Regulation into UK law. This could provide a solution for children whose parents like to “sharent”, because the new laws specify that an individual or organisation must obtain explicit consent or have some legitimate basis to share an individual’s personal data. Basically this means that before a parent shares their child’s information online they should ask whether the child agrees which of course is impossible if the child is still of tender years but the bill does provide that children could use the “right to erasure” to ask for social network providers and other websites to remove “sharented” material.
What happens, however, when parents are separated and have different views? Hopefully most disputes can be resolved using common sense but it is possible to go to court about whether an image should stay on social media or be removed. The court will make their determination on the basis of the best interest of the child.
Of course, much will depend on the nature of the image. A photo of a child which is completely uncontroversial is likely to be allowed to remain but a more dubious image will be withdrawn. It may be possible also to obtain an order to prevent an image being shared on social media. All cases will be decided on their own merits.
But should the “nanny state” really be interfering in family life by telling parents how and when they can share their childrens’ information?
I would suggest the advice to follow is that all parents should think very carefully about what they share on line and if in any doubt, the image should not be posted.