Opinion / Op-Ed Contributors

'Sharenting' isn't just a private affair

By XIE CAIFENG (China Daily) Updated: 2016-05-05 08:13

Weaknesses: First is the potential identity leak and the subsequent security risk. Pedophiles or criminals can put together information on a child according to its parents' online postings. Second, the children's photos could be saved and misused by child-porn websites. Third, some photos could become a source of embarrassment to the children when they grow up. Fourth, it could prove very costly to the kids in the future. Thanks to the development of big data, many employers now investigate candidates' background on the internet. So some postings reflecting the children's bad habits or behaviors could make it difficult for them to land a job when they grow up. Some universities have started doing similar background checks before admitting candidates. Fifth, "over-sharenting" is not good for children's growth, as they may feel depressed in case their postings receive negative comments. And sixth, "over-sharenting" builds a kind of attention-seeking competition atmosphere that pushes parents to compete by projecting their children's beauty and smartness, which may hurt the feelings of other parents.

Opportunities: SNS operators provide grouping and privacy setting tools that can help parents group online contacts to tweet information precisely to those who they are familiar with. And certain SNS operators have started taking precautionary measures such as using pop-up notices to warn a person posting his/her children's photos.

Threats: Since the privacy law in China is not clear on whether parents can directly post their children's photos or videos online without consent, and since there are no clear penal provisions, it is not easy to use legal means to curb "sharenting". Second, posting kids' photos online has become a fad which cannot be reversed in a short time, and many people have not realized the potential harm the practice could cause. Third, with the development of facial identification technology, criminals can identify the children through their photos. And last, domestic SNS operators haven't realized the risk and taken preventive steps accordingly.

So using legal means is not the best way to curb "sharenting". Based on the SWOT analysis, we can safely say that posting children's photos online is understandable but must be done carefully and sparingly. It is advisable that parents not share too much information about their children, because the more information, including photos, you share with others, the more problems you could create for the kids in the future.

The author is a fellow with the research office of Shunyi district people's court in Beijing.

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