The current age of ubiquitous social media use gives rise to numerous privacy issues. One such issue is the rise of “sharenting”, which sees parents sharing sensitive content regarding their children to social media platforms such as Instagram and Facebook.

Sharenting has exposed a gap in New Zealand legislation, which currently has no specific recourse to protect the privacy of children in instances in which a parent or caregiver has posted sensitive or exploitative content of that child.

While most instances of sharenting may not involve bad intentions on the part of the parent or caregiver, parents should be aware of their privacy settings and whether personal or identifying information is included in the picture (i.e., the child’s school).

One of the issues which arises from this is “digital kidnapping.” This is where the child’s photo is taken from a social media account and used in a fake account for the purposes of roleplay. In some instances, the perpetrator pretends to be the parent and in other instances they pretend to be the child.

An example of this is an instance in which a young mother posted an image of her 18-month-old son on a public social media account only to find that one of the people who liked it had taken the photo, uploaded it to her own account, and was now posing as the boy’s mother. The perpetrator responded to comments about the child as if he were her own, and provided updates on the child’s development.

In this case, the young mother was able to contact the perpetrator who took down the image, but others in this situation have not been so fortunate. With the use of social media increasing yearly, sharenting is exposing clear gaps in the Privacy Act 2020. If you have concerns about privacy, it is wise to seek advice from a professional experienced in the area.

 

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Sarah Jamieson