Social media is inundated with photos, quotes and videos of children posted by their parents. Some tend to document everything from their children’s first words, their first steps, the first few days at school to most of the other activities, conversations, accomplishments and challenges in their lives. There are even videos where kids feel sad or cry.
The above are examples of “sharing,” which refers to the practice of parents posting content about their children on online platforms. At present, this is common in various countries around the world, including Bangladesh. Sharing poses risks to child protection and raises many questions about privacy, consent and the parent-child relationship.
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Disclosure of children’s personal information, such as geographic location, name, date of birth, photos, and the schools they attend, may put them at risk as malicious people can use this information to harm. to children. Many share photos of their children in a variety of intimate places, where they are not properly dressed. Such pictures of children can be found on websites for pedophiles. Australia’s Electronic Security Commissioner reports that nearly half of all images found on the pedophile image-sharing site he reviewed were originally posted with parental consent on social media and blogs family. Information shared is often misused for “identity theft” when imposters stalk or commit fraud against children, or even blackmail their families.
Due to the prevalence of sharing, children develop a digital footprint from an early age, over which they have no control. A University of Michigan study found that more than half of participants shared embarrassing content about children online. Twenty-seven percent of them shared photos deemed potentially inappropriate. This could lead to negative consequences. For example, children could be ridiculed at school. Additionally, college / university admissions officers and potential employers may access inappropriate material. This could shape their impression of a candidate and negatively affect academic or professional opportunities. Children should be free to define themselves online, on their own terms, without being encumbered by the image created by their parents. Sharing does not respect children’s autonomy over their personality.
Over 55% of kids said they wouldn’t upload news or pictures of themselves to their social media feeds. This is what emerges from a survey of over 16,000 students conducted by VotesforSchools (this platform allows UK students to vote and comment on issues that affect their lives). Some were concerned about being embarrassed or about the longevity of the content, which could stay online indefinitely. Others have expressed concerns about the compromise of their personal data. One of the children said: “Although our parents are well meaning, the consequences of a message can sometimes be disastrous.”
It is unrealistic to expect parents to stop talking about their children altogether. Social networks are now part of everyday life. Sharing can bring families together, especially when they are geographically dispersed. Children also appreciate this. Sometimes parents can receive support from other people through the posting.
However, social media is still evolving and there are no set rules. Much of this is common sense. As a general rule, sharing should be kept to a minimum. We must resist the temptation to document everything and publish everything. Parents should keep in mind whether their children will feel ashamed, embarrassed, anxious or annoyed by any of the messages. Is there a potential danger for the child? Will this affect the parent-child relationship?
Children have the right to be protected from all types of damage, including damage caused by sharing. Sharing of children’s personal data should be avoided. Parents should try not to show that they have a regular pattern every day and should turn off geotagging (which tells web users where a person is). Simple steps such as checking privacy settings to make sure messages can only be viewed by trusted friends and family, and asking others not to share children’s content on their accounts, could be helpful. a good start. This does not guarantee that the image or text will not be abused, but parents should do everything possible to protect their children. Parents should not share photos showing their children in any undress condition (eg swimsuit, light clothing).
The most vital aspect of this type of social media use is having a child-centered approach. Parents should be careful to listen to children. At the age of four, the children became aware of their identity. Parents should ask children if they want their friends and family to know about the things that are being shared. Parents need to understand that children have the right to say “no” to the images and text they post. It is important that parents respect the views of children.
The London School of Economics (LSE) has launched a project called “Preparing for a Digital Future”. Sonia Livingstone, professor of social psychology in the Department of Media and Communications and one of the project’s researchers, said: “We interviewed several families where even young children wanted their parents to share fewer photos and view them more. We have observed in a few families that children even learn to tell their parents to stop. It is a matter of respect and consent, and protection is important, more than the act of sharing itself. What will matter to children is to feel that they have power, respect and dignity – this is at the heart of privacy. So anyone who shares or uses their images should prioritize that. “
In Bangladesh, there is a need for research on sharing and listening to children’s views. We can use the lessons learned about sharing from other countries as well as in the best interests of the children. Awareness of Bangladeshi parents on the risks of sharing as well as the ability to minimize harm should be developed.
If parents share online to get likes, kids will learn that posting is a way to gain validation, which is negative for their development and well-being. It is the responsibility of parents to practice good social media etiquette so that children learn to behave in online environments and navigate the digital world becomes a stimulating experience for them.
Laila Khondkar is an international development worker.