French parents guilty of “sharenting” may have to start to consider their child’s rights to their own images

Do parents share too many images of their kids online? France thinks so. Last month, members of the National Assembly’s law committee unanimously agreed that new legislation that aims to protect children’s rights over their own images should be drafted.

A Member of Parliament from French President Emmanuel Macron’s party, Bruno Studer, put the bill forward. “The message to parents is that their job is to protect their children’s privacy,” he said in an interview. “On average, children have 1,300 photos of themselves circulating on social media platforms before the age of 13, before they are even allowed to have an account.”

The term “sharenting” has been circulating in the social zeitgeist more and more over the last few years, likely because it has become increasingly common for parents to document all stages of their child’s life on social media. The term is a combination of the words “sharing” and “parenting.” The intention behind sharenting may be a seemingly harmless and easy way to keep friends and family in the loop with a growing child, but what can result from not being diligent about privacy settings can have pretty awful consequences. The National Center for Missing and Exploited Children reports that 50% of the pictures shared by child sexual predators were found via parents’ posts on social media, a report that was mentioned in the bill.

“The first two articles aim to establish the protection of privacy as one of the responsibilities of parents as holders of parental authority, for which they must obviously involve the child,” explained Studer. “In the most extreme cases, it is provided that the family judge may, if necessary, make a forced partial delegation of parental authority for the specific case of an exercise of image rights.”

Related: 10 Things to Consider Before Sharing Kid Pics on Social Media

Studer said that by the time a child reaches age 13, they have an average of 1,300 images of themself circulating on the internet. That’s pretty daunting. And as many children grow, they become less and less comfortable with being documented online. It may be hard for parents to reconcile that the once smiling, chubby baby they loved showing off online no longer wants their image out there. The fact is, when we put something online that’s not protected for privacy, it lives on the internet for a very, very long time. Even after you delete an image, something like the Wayback Machine, which archives contents on the internet, means it can still be found. And any image that someone can access can also be screenshot and kept indefinitely.

There are a lot of parents becoming savvier about ways to share fun moments of their children, without making it a public display, through the use of private image-sharing apps (like Tinybeans!), or by keeping their social media profiles protected instead of public. Children do have a right to privacy and a right to their own image, especially as they grow cognizant of that image. If passed, it will be interesting to see how something like this can be enforced.

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