'Sharenting' and 'kidfluencers'? Guidelines for your kids' digital footprint
The parent gets to decide the digital footprint of a child and that's a very powerful right that you have and it should be used carefully.Emma Sadleir, Social Media Law Expert
Sadleir defines the presence of children on social media as two separate types, Sharenting and Kidfluencers.
She defines sharenting as the process of sharing content about your child online for social purposes and suggests the type of content that parents should not be sharing online - especially on social media platforms that lack privacy settings.
I would be quite careful about the kinds of pictures I'm sharing. For example, no naked pictures of my toddlers, even though they're so cute, you just don't want that content landing up in the wrong hands. No embarrassing content, no shaming content, understanding that this is the digital footprint that that child will inherit and it will go with them.Emma Sadleir, Social Media Law Expert
The parent is creating a digital footprint, a public image of the child that will likely follow them as they grow older, she emphasises.
She advises that as the child gets older it becomes important to seek their consent on what you're posting about them.
As you child gets older, start asking them for permission. If your 12 year old is saying, 'Mommy please don't post that on Instagram.' Then don't post it on Instagram.Emma Sadleir, Social Media Law Expert
She also emphasises the importance of parents forming an agreement about what their child's digital footprint should be, especially in situations that involve co-parenting.
Sadleir explains the second type of content, Kidfluencers, as the business of children becoming content creators or influencers on social media.
The other category is where we start to step into the territory of what we call 'kidfluencers' and that's where we start to monetise our children.Emma Sadleir, Social Media Law Expert
They're being thrust into the limelight before they're old enough to consent to it.Emma Sadleir, Social Media Law Expert
She gives the example of Ryan's World which is a YouTube channel based on a child that reviews toys, and is worth over $100 million. She explains that the worrying aspect is the lack of regulation involved in this form of business.
For me, that's even more interesting than the sharenting issue because it is entirely unregulated at the moment.Emma Sadleir, Social Media Law Expert
Emma explains that in terms of the law, parents are given the discretion over the child and what they earn, which can often lead to problems.
I think what the law does at the moment is that it's very respectful of the parents discretion to make decisions for the children. Now what we do see happening is exploitation of the child on social media.Emma Sadleir, Social Media Law Expert
She elaborates that child labor laws should be helping to protect kids in this business to prevent exploitation. The main issue still lies with the fact that the parent is in full control of anything earned by the child's work.
If I'm running my kids Instagram or TikTok account and they're earning hundreds of thousands of rands and I'm happily living off it while using this child basically as free labor. Completely unregulated, completely unprotected and there's no guarantee that the money is benefitting the child in the long run. There are problems. So I think that it's really calling out for some kind of regulation.Emma Sadleir, Social Media Law Expert
Sadleir gives the example of France which has created laws specifically about the amount of time a child is allowed to spend per week on creating social media content but notes that the rest of the world is largely unregulated.
She says that parents should be careful about what they post online, and suggests not posting anything to social media that you wouldn't put on a billboard.
I think a lot of this just falls back to common sense. A little bit back to remembering how public digital content is, how permanent digital content is and that you're giving your child a digital footprint that they'll inherit whether they like it or not so its up to parents to make sure they do like it.Emma Sadleir, Social Media Law Expert
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