On social networks, it has become common for some parents to post photos of their children and we see these publications in the news feeds mingling with images of little cats and other “like” content.
According to a survey carried out in 2021 by the Gece polling institute, 39% of babies have a digital footprint even before they are born . Another poll conducted by Potloc for the Observatory of Parenthood and Digital Education (OPEN) and published in February 2023 showed that 53% of parents share photos of their children online and that 1.1% of parents French are influencers .
This practice gave rise to the emergence of the term “sharenting” , a contraction of “sharing” (shared) and “parenting”, which appeared for the first time in 2012 under the pen of a journalist from the Wall Street Journal , Steven Leckert. “Sharenting” is defined by Putri as “the phenomenon of parents sharing and disclosing intimate information about children in the form of photos, videos and statuses via social media”.
The motivations for these shares can be varied, for example the search for recognition, support and valorization of one’s role as parents, a strengthening of self-esteem and a certain pride through the “likes” and the positive comments of the publications. . Some parents may also use “sharenting” to document their child’s development and maintain a link with loved ones. Others use it as a source of income by becoming influencers or having their child become influencers.
This practice is not without posing a certain number of ethical problems, among which the question of children’s consent and their exposure to online risks. Children – once they have passed the stage of infancy and are old enough to understand how the Internet works – are relatively critical, suspicious of the sharing of content concerning them on social networks . They may feel embarrassed when they read certain posts, which can lead to family conflicts.
For their part, parents face a paradox. On the one hand, they implement digital mediation strategies to “maximize online opportunities and minimize online risks” for their child; on the other hand, it is the data and images that they themselves share that can expose them to online risks, such as child pornography.
To “guarantee respect for children’s image rights” , a bill was tabled in France by MP Bruno Studer, adopted at first reading by the National Assembly on March 6, 2023. The European regulation for the protection of data , which provides for a digital right to be forgotten ( right to erasure ) for persons making the request (Article 17), also provides that those under 18 benefit from a specific right to be forgotten and can ask for content concerning them to be removed from the platforms more quickly (article 40).
Sharing photos and information about children on social media raises ethical and online safety concerns, requiring ongoing reflection to frame this practice appropriately.
Author Bio: Marie Danet is a Lecturer in Psychology at the University of Lille