Sharenting: Balancing the Conflicting Rights of Parents and Children

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Abstract

Many parents in the United Kingdom will post hundreds of photographs of their children online before those children reach their fifth birthday (Rose, 2016). So many parents now share information about their children online that a new term has emerged to describe the phenomenon; ‘sharenting’, meaning the ‘habitual use of social media to share news, images, etc of one’s children’ (Collins).

Parents are often considered ‘gatekeepers’ of their children’s personal information, the best people to decide whether a child’s information is shared (Weller v Associated Newspapers, AAA v Associated Newspapers). However, in the sharenting context a conflict of interests exists between parents, and their rights to freedom of expression and respect for family life, and their child’s right to privacy.

This conflict was clearly highlighted in 2016 when media reports suggested an eighteen-year-old Austrian girl, founding her claim on her right to privacy, was suing her parents for posting embarrassing childhood photos on Facebook. Whilst that story has since been denounced as untrue it nonetheless raises two interesting questions: Could a child sue their parents for sharenting? Should the courts intervene in what might be considered a family dispute?

In attempting to answer these questions this article analyses how a claim brought by a child against their parents for unauthorised online disclosure of their information might be decided under English law. It identifies several problems a child might encounter when seeking to remove their information from the online sphere through the courts, and suggests various alternatives to court action which might more effectively protect the rights of both parents and children.
Original languageEnglish
Pages (from-to)7-24
Number of pages18
JournalCommunications Law
Volume23
Issue number1
Publication statusPublished - 31 Jan 2018

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