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The risks of 'sharenting': I am three years old and more people follow me on networks than you


Highlights: Experts stress the risks of uploading images of children to the internet, ask that their digital footprint be protected. From the age of 14 they are legally entitled to give their consent on which photos can be uploaded and which can not. The problem is that many times families are not aware that they share information beyond their control. Children can be vulnerable to impersonation, to becoming memes and being harassed by their peers, to ending up in image banks for sexual purposes, says Vanesa de la Cruz.

Experts stress the risks of uploading images of children to the internet, ask that their digital footprint be protected

An ultrasound announced that it existed and congratulations and likes crowded; then, a photo in the hospital, after childbirth; on vacation, splashing in the pool. And dancing at a wedding. Even that day that caused a disaster in the kitchen, or when he fell and cried and laughed at the same time. Also when he had to enter the hospital, for nothing serious less bad, but what a scare the parents and their followers on social networks took. This child has no name because he can be anyone. Let's say he's three years old, although that's just one example. His whole life is on the internet, in a public profile. What is your name, how old you are, who your family is, what your voice sounds like, what school you go to, how you dressed, what you like to eat, what your tantrums are like. His digital identity was not created by him and his digital footprint is beyond his control. He is followed by more people, through their parents' profiles, than many readers of this article.

This is what is known as sharenting, the action of parents to share images of their children on networks. The educational psychologist Vanesa de la Cruz summarizes the panorama by citing two reports from a few years ago: "81% of children have a presence on the internet before they are six months old, according to a study by the computer security company AVG. Another study from the University of Michigan concludes that 56% of parents believe that there are parents who share photographs that could be embarrassing to their children. De la Cruz, who works for the Fad Youth Foundation, coordinates the Connected Education project, which trains families in digital education.

The networks have adhered to our lives and, says De la Cruz, "many times families are not aware that they share information beyond their control." How to live and enjoy technology without increasing the dangers for minors is the crux of the matter. From the age of 14 they are legally entitled to give their consent on which photos can be uploaded and which can not. Until then, his parents decide.

"They should be aware that the images can end up leaving even a private profile, for example if they put them in their WhatsApp status. Children can be vulnerable to impersonation, to becoming memes and being harassed by their peers, to ending up in image banks for sexual purposes... But not only that: when telling his private life, his intimacies are in the networks, "he warns. "Sharing images is not a right of parents," he ditches, and emphasizes that if they are public figures, "everything rises to the umpteenth power, with the addition that children are exposed to hate messages, and that can seriously affect their self-esteem. "

Willow Smith, the daughter of actors Will Smith and Jada Pinkett Smith, told Girlgaze in 2017: "Growing up and trying to discover yourself... While people feel like they have some kind of right to know what's going on in your life is unbearably terrible, the only way to overcome it is to face it." I was 17 years old at the time. "You can't change your face. You can't change your parents. You can't change any of those things. So I feel that most children like me end up in a spiral of depression, while the world witnesses it through their mobiles; making fun and making jokes and memes," he added. Just open an Instagram moment to see children. At all hours. Videos, photos and hundreds of thousands of likes and comments.

María Lázaro, author of the book Minors and social networks, believes that the difference with the exposure of children of celebrities and influencers years ago with what happens now is that "in networks the audience is multiplied by a thousand and that reach is permanent, before you went on television but then you could not have that image, Now it is amplified and indelible."

Overexposing your privacy

Although Lazarus broadens the focus and speaks of all children, not just those with known parents. "The problem is twofold: on the one hand we want to teach our children not to overexpose themselves in networks when we are the first ones who have done so, and we have also taken away from them the possibility of deciding and managing their digital footprint." She is blunt: "The recommendation would be not to share photos, and if we do, that it be respecting their privacy, for example, from behind." It invites children to be involved in decisions. "When you start asking them if they want you to share the photo, it's surprising that they start saying no, especially when they reach preadolescence."

A recent analysis by the Open University of Catalonia warned about the dangers of sharenting, citing other studies. Such as that of the University of Valencia that reveals that 72% of the material seized from dual sex offenders who have been convicted (that is, pedophiles who also physically abuse minors) were non-erotic or sexualized images of totally or partially naked children that came from commercial sources or family albums. Normal photographs, of scenes of everyday life. Or the EU Kids Online report, which reveals that 89% of Spanish families share their children's content on Facebook, Instagram or TikTok about once a month.

A campaign by the Anar Foundation – whose purpose is the defense of the rights of minors – to raise awareness among parents exemplifies this with the fictitious case of Marina, a girl whose parents will have uploaded 200 photos and videos to the internet in her first year of life. It will be more than 2,000 when he is 13. A mother who prefers to give a fictitious name, let's say Almudena, says that she has gone from never uploading a photo in which the face of her children, who are now nine years old, to making sure that in her private profile in networks there are only people she knows and trusts and turn it into a "photo album".

Meanwhile, one day she discovered an image of her children taken at a family photo shoot on a website. "She had been hanged without authorization," recalls the fright. "I don't even want to track, I'd rather not know if it's somewhere else. But one day I realized that I want to have memories with my children, their life at school and activities with their friends. Covering their faces is like stealing their identity. I talk to them and they tell me if they think it's okay for me to upload the photos," he explains. Although she acknowledges that she is "horrified" to see some posts from friends, "they have even shared images of their hospitalized children."

Marina's parents will upload about 🤳200 photos of her to social networks during her first year of life.

At thirteen he will have more than 2,000. For a #SharentingResponsable.

Protects your 📷digital footprint.

Tips to protect in rrss:

— ANAR Foundation (@FundacionANAR) May 17, 2023

Lázaro reasons that "children may or may not be conditioned by having their whole lives in networks", but that they are exposed to a reality that adults should not have faced. She is not aware in Spain of cases of children who have taken legal action against their parents for having overexposed their lives in networks, but cites examples in Austria and Italy. "There is also a legal basis for the Prosecutor's Office to act if it considers that the parents are undermining the interest of the child by sharing their daily lives on social networks, but the truth is that right now it is not intervening," he says.

In Spain there is no specific rule in this area, but there are applicable laws. Eduardo Esteban, who heads the Specialized Unit for Minors of the Attorney General's Office, cites the 1982 law on the civil protection of the right to honour, family and personal privacy and self-image and the legal protection of minors. In addition to a 1996 instruction from the Prosecutor's Office that prosecutors must comply with and "details how to act when there is a collision" between these rights of minors and the right to information, says Esteban. "It's also applicable to social media," he continues. The instruction specifies that these children's rights are "hyper-protected" by the legal system.

The holders of the right to honor, privacy and self-image are always minors. The consent, therefore, must be given by themselves if their conditions of maturity allow it, and in other cases they will be their two parents or guardians. In any case, the data protection law establishes that it is from the age of 14 when a minor can give their consent in relation to the processing of their personal data.

Divorce Agreements

Esteban explains that "parents do not have absolute freedom to dispose of the image of their children." If there is interference with their rights, the Public Prosecutor's Office may act even with the consent of the adolescent or his legal representatives. "Every year [in the Specialized Unit for Minors of the State Attorney General's Office] we have a few actions because a media outlet has published something, and we act ex officio," says Esteban. "In social networks it is more complicated, and exposing the daily life of children can be abusive," he continues.

Although there is no general rule that indicates what the limit is, it depends on the casuistry. "If we learn through the police or a complaint, we act. If the prosecutor understands that the publication on social networks of that image of the minor, or of facts that affect him, is contrary to his interests, he will file a lawsuit against the parents and may even ask them for compensation, "he says.

However, it specifies on the one hand that networks, "by definition, are incomprehensible" and, on the other, that children, as members of society, "have the right to participate in a social event, such as a family birthday, and to be publicized. If not, there would be no image of a child on social media."

Regulation and awareness

Family lawyer Carmen Varela says that "if both parents agree, normally no one acts, unless there is a very flagrant case." It is with divorces or separations when problems arrive. Both the father and the mother, who exercise parental authority, have to agree to the dissemination of images of children. "We are already collecting it in the regulatory agreements. And, if nothing is agreed, when one parent does not agree, send a request to the other to remove the image. Most do. In cases where it does not, a judge is called upon, who must decide what to do." She believes that it would be appropriate to regulate specifically how to protect the use of the image of minors by parents in networks and even in the media.

What all respondents agree on is that more awareness is needed. Cristina, mother of a six-year-old boy who uses a fictitious name, says she has many doubts about how to raise her son in an environment where networks are omnipresent. "I think there is an age to exist on the internet and at the moment I want the footprint of the child in the digital world to be as minimal as possible. That's why I only pass their photos to a family WhatsApp group in which we have agreed that they cannot leave there."

The first thing recommended by Nacho Guadix, head of education and digital rights at UNICEF, is to find out about the privacy policy of social networks. Many families, he says, "let themselves be carried away thoughtlessly", "images are shared out of pride and need for their own recognition or to generate attractive content". "Only 13% of parents of teens aged 12 to 16 limit the content their children watch online. This makes us see how little danger families see to this practice, "he concludes. That is why it calls for raising awareness. "There are risks in the future that we find difficult to even identify. For example, with artificial intelligence. It is not about living in a cave, we are not for the total ban, but it is good to ask ourselves what they gain by publishing the image. At the moment when it is not an advantage, better not to publish it. And when we do, make it as decontextualized as possible, without giving information about where the school is or the park it goes to. Pedophiles are super clear about how to pull the string."

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Source: elparis

All life articles on 2023-06-04

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