In celebration of Safer Internet Day 2015, a special edition of the ‘Donald Duck’ has been released. In this edition – called ‘Digi Duck’ – our Disney heroes teach children how to be safe online (see Digi Duck). However, it is not always the children about whom we should be worried regarding their online protection. Today, parents have found social media websites using them as a platform to share everything and anything. This includes (sensitive) information about their children. With only a mouse click away it’s tempting to login on Facebook and post that cute picture of your child spilling food all over its cute little face. Parents may be unaware that they are violating their child’s right to privacy (article 16 of the UN Convention on the Rights of the Child) by doing so.
Why parents share
Parents share a variety of information about their children online. For them, sharing this information might feel like sharing information about their own lives, not the child’s life in particular (see Hartman). There are parents that take things to the next level by creating a Twitter account on behalf of their (unborn) child. Although it’s funny to read what baby’s are thinking, we all know that it is not the cute baby itself twittering its thoughts and feelings (for example see Baby Juno). Parents can feel the need to share pictures and information because they are very proud of what their child has accomplished. Also, they want to keep distant family members informed about the welfare of their children. Of course there are also parents who want to show the world how great their offspring are (see Keijzer). They can now brag about their children online too.
The information put online by parents will be on the Internet forever. When parents share photos, stories, videos or sensitive information about their children online, they are in fact creating an online persona for their child (see Hartman). This online persona can become embarrassing for the child as it grows up. The child might also be harmed if it’s confronted on the web with (new) sensitive information about its life (see Zemama). When the child in particular is old enough to take part in social media itself, parents may encounter difficulties in explaining the importance of online safety. This is due to their oversharing of information (see Hartman). Further, one does not know who will actually see the information and pictures posted. There are not only nice people on the web. Pictures of children playing in bath with soap can easily fall into the wrong hands, the hands of a pedophile. Privacy settings on social media can’t stop this from occurring (see Keijzer).
The child’s right to privacy
In the case of parents sharing stuff about their (very) young children online, the children had no say in what was shared. Let alone if it would be shared. According to article 16 of the UN Convention on the Rights of the Child, no child shall be subjected to arbitrary or unlawful interference with his or her privacy. The child also has the right to be protected by law against such interference. In my opinion, parents should take Goofy’s advice and think twice before putting information and pictures on the web for the whole world to see (see page 21 Digi Duck). There is no reason why parents can’t anonymize a picture. This respects the child’s right to privacy and will still give parents the satisfaction they get from showing off their kids. Let’s not turn children into an online soap (see Twittermania).