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Family

The 'sharenting' conundrum and your child's privacy

Posted September 28

Parents in Austria are being sued by their daughter for violating her privacy as a child. So what are the limits for parents who want to share their lives with family and friends without harming their children? (Deseret Photo)

When it comes to a child's privacy, how far is too far for parents?

An 18-year-old in Austria says her parents took it too far and she has sued them for violating her privacy.

The lawsuit claims that since 2009, the unnamed woman’s parents have posted some 500 embarrassing and intimate photos of her on Facebook for their 700 friends to see without her consent, The Local reported.

The shared images have consisted of baby pictures getting her diaper changed, being potty trained, etc..

“They knew no shame and no limit and didn’t care whether it was a picture of me sitting on the toilet or lying naked in my cot — every stage was photographed and then made public,” the daughter told The Local.

Despite her repeated requests to remove the photos, the lawsuit alleges, the parents have not budged, claiming it is their right to publish the images since they took them.

“I’m tired of not being taken seriously by my parents,” the daughter said. Thus, she filed the lawsuit.

Austria does not have privacy laws as strict as other countries, but the outcome of the trial, which is scheduled for November, could impact Austria's privacy laws in the future, as well as other countries across the globe.

In France, parents can face jail time and a fine of up to $67,000 if they post pictures of their children without their consent, according to the Daily Telegraph.

While there may not be legal restrictions against parents in the U.S. from posting photos of their children on social media without consent, some children still tend to disapprove of what their parents post of them on social media.

The University of Michigan found that children between the ages of 10 and 17 are “really concerned” about their parents sharing their lives online, and twice as many children as parents think there should be rules about what adults can share about their offspring on social media.

Eighteen percent of children don’t want their parents oversharing or even sharing information about them online without their explicit permission, according to the study that was cited in the Deseret News.

One of the sample quotes from respondents in the study read, “Don’t post anything about me without asking me.”

This is typically referred to as “sharenting” where parents blog, tweet and post pictures from their children’s lives — often simultaneously.

“Starting from the first hour of life, children’s lives are now being meticulously documented on social media with potential consequences that could put kids at emotional or physical risk,” said Joyce Lee, a medical doctor and associate professor in pediatrics at the University of Michigan.

A 2015 study conducted by Parent Zone, on behalf of the international internet company Nominet, revealed that the average parent posts over 200 photos of their children every year, but most had never checked their privacy settings.

London School of Economics professor Sonia Livingstone told the Guardian that parents should think about who they are sharing with because 50 friends is quite different from 500 random people.

“Everyone needs to consider the needs of themselves and others in an open way, bearing in mind that the digital world is changing, that images are permanently posted and that the conditions of sharing and norms are all shifting in unpredictable ways,” Livingstone said.

To wrap up the study, Nominet and Parent Zone included an infographic as well as top tips for parents when sharing photos of their children online:

  • Check your privacy settings: Take a look at your social network’s privacy settings and ensure that they have been changed from the default. Make sure you’re only sharing images with the right people and avoid oversharing.
  • Think before you upload. If it’s an image of a child, do you think they will thank you for sharing it once they’ve grown up? Consider the feelings of others before posting images. If the child isn’t your own, try to ask permission of their parent first. Most importantly, remember that once a picture is uploaded to a social media site, it’s very difficult to remove all traces of it.

Email: solson@deseretnews.com; Twitter: @sether00ski

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