Sharenting – risks and tips to sharing information about your children online

20Feb2020

What is Sharenting?

Sharenting is the phenomenon where parents (over)share information, usually pictures of children, on the internet.  The act itself is so prevalent that it is now a term defined in the Collins English Dictionary as “the habitual use of social media to share news, images etc. of one’s children”.

The popularity of Sharenting

Documenting a child’s lives from each milestone to everything in between is now a social norm for parents. Smartphones and other technological advances have made it easier to share information with just a click of a few buttons.  

From social media platforms like Facebook and Instagram where parents can share photos and videos to friends and family to the plethora of mummy (and daddy) bloggers who document their children’s each and every move sometimes even as a business opportunity, the internet is full of data and information about young children.

Risks of Sharenting

While no one can fault a parent for wanting to document a child’s growth, there are risks and consequences involved with sharenting which must be considered and appreciated. Risks include but are not limited to:-

  1. A digital footprint: There may be consequences for your children when they grow up.  Once an image or a video or information is posted online, there is a risk that even if the information is later deleted, a digital footprint remains.  Information may have been shared by others creating a new post, or already saved or been screen captured by a third party onto their own device, or the information is simply cached on a user’s device. Cached data is information stored on a user’s device. As the information is stored on the machine, even if it is deleted from the internet, it may still be accessible to an individual who has viewed the information online and it is stored in their devices.

    Other risks include cyber-bullying by others and future risks if potential universities or employers may find information you shared of your child from the past which could affect them. For example, many employers will conduct a cursory search on potential employees before offering employment opportunities. An embarrassing video, which may have been funny at the time, could hinder employment prospects.
     
  2. Children’s right to privacy: The UN Convention on Rights of the Child (UNCRC) provides at article 16 that “no child shall be subjected to arbitrary or unlawful interference with his or her privacy, family, home or correspondence, nor to unlawful attacks on his or her honour and reputation”.  When parents share photos and data of their child online, the child’s right to privacy is to be balanced with the parent’s right of free speech. Yet, more often than not, when parents share information about their children online, they do so without their children’s consent.
     
  3. Privacy Concerns and Identity theft: Each post shared on the internet contains meta-data, which is data about data. Meta-data linked with what is posted can disclose information such as the time, date and location an image was taken and can provide personal information which you did not wish to be disclosed to the public.

    It is also important to carefully consider what information is being shared online when you post. There is a risk of inadvertently sharing private information, such as date of births, passport numbers, or even what may seem like trivial information such as what school they go to and other personal information which may be curated and hacked by third parties and used by individuals in identity theft. 

    Even where utmost caution has been taken, there is a risk that images and information can also be digitally manipulated and used inappropriately by third parties. 
     
  4. Confidential information: There is an added risk where the parents are engaged in acrimonious divorce proceedings and children’s arrangements and issues are in debate. In Hong Kong, proceedings in the Family Court are private and confidential. Parties cannot and should not share information on court orders about children’s arrangements and the proceedings. 

Tips on safe sharing

  1. Set boundaries on digital disclosure with your family. Discuss with your partner, your former spouse and your children. Discuss with them whether they wish their information to be shared online and what types of information should be shared.
     
  2. Consider alternative sharing methods with friends and family other than public / social media platforms.
     
  3. Check your privacy settings. Privacy policies on various platforms may change overtime, including whether your posts are visible to the public or whether the platform has amended its policy in any manner.
     
  4. If you find your partner, or a third party, is sharing information about your child which you do not agree to being shared online and they refuse to remove the offending information, you may consider seeking legal advice on what appropriate steps you may take. Specifically, where a party is sharing information on children’s arrangements from Family Court proceedings, we advise you to seek legal advice as sharing of any such information may constitute contempt of court.

Joanne Lam

If you would like to discuss any of the matters raised in this article, please contact:

Joanne Brown
Partner | E-mail

Mark Side
Partner | E-mail

Disclaimer: This publication is general in nature and is not intended to constitute legal advice. You should seek professional advice before taking any action in relation to the matters dealt with in this publication.