Online Child Protection Part Two

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Sharenting is the phrase being used to refer to parents who share information about their children on social media. Today’s parenting techniques are dynamic and also very personal. In the recent past, the issue of parents sharing photos and information of their children from the time they were born has raised questions of privacy violations and oversharing. This information is either shared through the parent’s personal account or an account opened by the parent for their new born.

A few questions that I will look at in this blog are:

  • At what age should a child get a social media account?
  • Should a parent open a social media account for their kid?
  • What If the parent just shares information through their individual accounts?
  • Can a child sue a parent for privacy violations?

Social Media Age Restrictions

Today’s kids are sharp when it comes to use and operation of tech gadgets. This may raise the argument that if they can operate them, then they are smart enough to know what to do and what not to on the social media platforms. Psychologists argue that this is far from the truth in that, the operational smartness does not mean that the child’s brain is well developed to handle the emotional and psychological impact of social media.

The MINIMUM age to open an account on Facebook, Twitter, Instagram, Pinterest, Tumblr, Kik, and Snapchat is 13. For Vine, Tinder and Yik Yak it’s 17. YouTube requires account holders to be 18, but a 13-year-old can sign up with a parent’s permission.

Can a Parent Open a social media Account for their “underage” kids?

Underage in this case refers to children below the restricted age limits. Depending on which side you are on, your answer may vary. Those against this may even raise the ethical issue of teaching your child to lie (about their age in this case so as to be able to open an account in their name).

When you open an account for a new born most posts will be about their milestones, their happy, sad and even embarrassing moments. This information is quite personal and could amount to oversharing if you look at it from an adult perspective.

The main challenge is as the parent; you are shaping your child’s online identity. If your kid was the crying and clingy type (for example) when smaller, then the world (friends and followers) will most likely view him or her as so even in future when they are trying to shape their online identity. This could also form a ground for bullying in future. If you had the “perfect baby” who was always clean, achieved all their milestones at the ‘right age’ then there is the expectation of perfection. Perfection of course is not possible and may take a mental and psychological toll on your child in the future when they seem to appear imperfect.

What If the parent just shares information through their individual accounts?

Some parents do not open accounts for their children but post the child’s information on their personal accounts. Is this wrong? Again it is subjective depending on the parent. I personally don’t have a problem with this approach, but emphasis on caution.

Most parents accounts are open to the public, meaning anyone, friends, friends of friends or even total strangers can view what you post. The account settings lead to over-exposure of your child. As an adult, a good number of people know you and where you live. If anyone among those with this knowledge is a pedophile, for example, they can easily get to your child.

Advisably, a parent should ensure that their accounts are private if they want to share information about their children. They can even have two accounts one private for family and friends in which they can share their child’s information and another open for their own pleasures and adventures that they don’t mind sharing with the whole world.

Can a child sue a parent for privacy violations?

In Kenya, not really, the Data protection bill that’s yet to be enacted into law, gives parents’ permission to share certain information about their children on behalf of the child. Globally, there has been incidents of children demanding their parents to pull down pages and posts on the child’s earlier years. In France, it is a punishable crime for a parent to post pictures or information about their children without their consent.

As parents we are proud of our kids and want the whole world to know it. However, I would advise parents to use common sense before posting pictures and any information regarding their child online. Ask yourself, “will my child be embarrassed or be uncomfortable because of this photo/information in future?”

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