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Lack of Privacy Ain’t Adorable!

by K. Vatsala Devi
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privacy is important especially to kids

When you are scrolling through various social media platforms have you come across postings of parents who have no regards for privacy of their kids and want to record every adorable moment of their lil’ bubs and share it on these platforms so family and friends, near and far can view and bask in the moment as well? If you answered yes, then it is important for you to press pause and read this.  

As technology enriches our lives and works to bring the world closer, one cannot help wonder if there is a price to pay for such convenience as we are all well-aware, every action has a consequence. The act of posting your child’s growth, progress, and adorable moments on social media platforms could seem harmless but it could turn to be harmful as they grow older.

Parents Have No Understanding of Privacy When It Comes to Kids

On that account, are parents guilty of violating a child’s privacy?

A search on the Internet on this topic would lean towards parents being perpetrators of violating their kids’ privacy as some parents create a child’s digital footprint even before a child is born, in the form of photos or postings that document every stage of their life.

This act of posting it on social media may seem adorable at first, but what parents forget is this act could potentially leave harmful digital footprints well before the age of consent.

This statement is further strengthened when Amy Webb, the founder and chief executive of Webbmedia Group explained that once you post and tag your child, they become subject to an array of databases over which parents have little control and could be at risk for identity theft, humiliation, and even future discrimination.

In the Room for Debate feature on “Children and Digital Privacy”, the founder and chief executive of Common Sense Media, James P. Steyer explained that ‘oversharenting’ is unhealthy as parents sometimes forget to consider the history and reputation they are creating for their children. Questions like how they will feel about their digital footprints in the future and how will this affect the way other people see them are not taken into consideration.

Having No Privacy On Social Media Can Leave A Negative Impact

To prove a point, we cite an excerpt taken from The Atlantic that was published on February 20, 2019 where the article “When Kids Realize Their Whole Life Is Already Online” written by Taylor Lorenz explored the shock that children go through when they realize details of their life have been shared online without their consent or knowledge.

“When Ellen, an 11-year-old, finally decided to Google herself, she didn’t expect to find anything, because she doesn’t yet have her own social-media accounts. She was stunned when she found years of swim scores and sports statistics on the web. A personal story she wrote in third grade was also published on a class website with her name attached. “I didn’t think I would be out there like this on the internet,” she told me.

Ellen said that while she didn’t find anything too sensitive or personal, she was frustrated that all the information about herself had been posted seemingly without her consent.

Another notable example would be Gwyneth Paltrow, where her 14-year-old daughter Apple Martin publicly complained about a photo her mother had shared on Instagram. Commenting on the photo, which showed the mother and daughter skiing, Apple Martin wrote, “Mom we have discussed this. You may not post anything without my consent.” Gwyneth Paltrow in turn replied, “You can’t even see your face!” Paltrow’s 5 million followers were subsequently divided on the issue, taking sides with either the mother or daughter.

Closer to home, an article in News Straits Times advises individuals to consider carefully before posting pictures of babies and toddlers as these photos can sometimes be used for malicious intent such as pornographic sites. While milestones and achievements are proud moments that should be immortalized through photos but these moments is perhaps best kept in albums or hard disk as one celebrity realized the hard way.

The article cited that the celebrity found a photo of his then 3-year-old son uploaded on a pornographic website. Photos posted by celebrities have the tendency to gain in popularity and go viral,” says MCMC’s senior director of the advocacy and outreach division, Eneng Faridah Iskandar.

Hit Pause Before Posting

All these examples are scary but it is important in order to drive home the uber important point of placing parents/adults responsible for posting photos and videos of innocent kids. Especially when the toddlers in question are not able to voice their refusal or agreement.

A perfect example to drive home this point is cited in NPR when an unscientific survey of an online child pornography site by an Australian government official found a significant chunk of the photos had initially been shared by parents on sites such as Facebook and Instagram. The photos themselves were mostly innocent, everyday scenes of kids playing, but they were accompanied by explicit, inappropriate comments. The Australian official estimated that “about half” of the 45 million images “appeared to be sourced directly from social media.”

Just be careful and think twice before we upload our kid’s digital information and images online. Now could be the right time for our government to set up an eSafety Commission with the function to educate and look into privacy online seriously.

Read more on this topic here.

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