School social media use and its impact upon children’s rights to privacy and autonomy

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The role schools are playing in children’s datafication is increasingly recognised. This article explores how school publication of children’s images on social media is contributing to children’s datafication and how it is negatively impacting upon children’s rights more generally. Identifying that schools across the UK, the US, Australia and Europe are now publishing children’s images online, it situates the findings of an inquiry into UK practice within wider discussion of school practices worldwide.

This article uses practice-based documentary analysis to evaluate guidance provided to schools by local education authorities (LEAs) across England, Scotland and Wales. It identifies that LEAs are failing to recognise children’s Article 12 UNCRC right to be heard. LEAs frequently advise schools to seek consent from parents, denying children agency. Online publications which identify children potentially contravene Article 16 UNCRC’s requirement not to subject a child to arbitrary or unlawful interference with their privacy and may expose children to harms such as harassment and grooming. Nonetheless the template consent forms provided to parents provide minimal information about such risks. Concerns are raised that online publications are not always in children’s best interests, thus contravening Article 3 UNCRC.

With similar concerns having been raised in other jurisdictions, this article argues for a new child-rights focused approach. Drawing upon Dimopoulos’ (2021) theory of children’s decisional privacy and upon best practice from the UK, it suggests how schools across the globe can ensure children’s rights and views inform school decisions to share children’s images via social media.

Original languageEnglish
JournalComputers and Education Open
Publication statusAccepted/In press - 13 May 2024

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