New French bill would prevent parents from oversharing about their kids online
“The message to parents is that their job is to protect their children’s privacy."
If there’s one thing proud parents are gonna do since the dawn of time (or at least the invention of the camera), it’s show off photos of their kids. Nowadays, parents aren’t whipping out their kids’ school photos from their wallets as much as they are documenting their child’s every waking move on social media.
A new French bill introduced in Parliament seeks to limit just how much parents are able to share about their minor-age children online. Last month, members of the National Assembly’s law committee unanimously voted to greenlight the legislation draft to protect kids’ rights to their own images.
“The message to parents is that their job is to protect their children’s privacy,” Bruno Studer, an MP (member of Parliament) from President Emmanuel Macron’s party who introduced the bill, said in an interview. “On average, children have 1,300 photos of themselves circulating on social media platforms before the age of 13, before they are even allowed to have an account.”
The harm of ‘sharenting’
“Sharenting,” or the act of sharing photos of your children online without their explicit consent, has been a controversial topic in recent years—especially when it comes to apps like Instagram, TikTok, and the parent creators who influence an audience via those apps.
A recent study conducted by a team of researchers from the University of Central Florida (UCF) and Indiana University Bloomington discovered that parents who regularly post photos of their children on social media tend to be more permissive, often associated with having a more friend-like parenting style.
Researchers also found that permissive parenting tends to be associated with earlier social media usage in kids. Based on a survey for participating parents, the study also found a strong link between parents who regularly shared their child’s photos on social media and a more permissive parenting style.
While “sharenting” may have the intention to be a harmless way of communicating and sharing online, the impact of it runs deep and wide—and we’ve barely hit the tip of the iceberg when it comes to kids who have grown into adults who are resentful about their images and lives being documented for anyone to see.
Research conducted by Secure Data Recovery shows that close to half (46%) of America’s population post on social media at least weekly, which means people share a lot of personal information online all the time. So, we wanted to know how many people use the privacy function on social media, a setting that allows users to accept or deny friend requests or followers, giving them the power to know who is viewing their posts.
When asked if they have their social media apps set to private, 24% of our respondents reported not using this privacy setting. And, in terms of privacy, the findings get worse:
- The majority (73%) of respondents don’t personally know everyone who views their posts.
- Close to half (44%) regret something they’ve shared on social media.
- When it comes to politics, 53% agree that people overshare their political views on social media.
- Most people (75%) think that most parents overshare about their children online.
Related: A new parent’s ultimate guide to social media
The Wren Eleanor controversy
Wren Eleanor is a toddler with her own TikTok page largely made up of videos showing the tiny tot doing tiny tot things, and wearing cute tiny tot clothes, eating snacks, and playing alongside her mother, Jacquelyn. The page also appears to be pretty lucrative for Jacquelyn and often shows the two of them showing off their gifted clothing “hauls” from fast-fashion companies like Shein.
So what’s controversial about it? First, when you have more than 17 million people following a toddler girl, there are, unfortunately, bound to be some potential predators (or at least creeps who make predatory comments and “fan” accounts) that regularly lurk and comment on Wren’s photos and videos.
Second, the astonishing popularity of the account has brought the question of social media, minors, and consent to the forefront of a national dialogue unlike anything ever before. Because no matter how we feel about kids having their own social media accounts, the bottom line is this: Children cannot give their consent to appear on social media. Exposing your children online without their consent—and especially profiting from it—is exploitation, full stop.
Related: What’s the harm in posting about our kids on social media?
In recent months, parents on TikTok have started raising their concerns about the account and about the potential harm and danger associated with having children appear in videos and photos online. Other parents have pointed out that certain videos and photos of Wren Eleanor have been saved tens of thousands of times—by complete strangers. Many parents have also made their own videos highlighting the disturbing comments grown men have made about the little girl, often sexual and predatory in nature.
What the French bill means for parents
The bill states that both parents would be jointly responsible for their offspring’s image rights and “shall involve the child according to his or her age and degree of maturity.”
If neither parent agrees with the other’s decision, a judge can ban one of them from posting or sharing a child’s pictures without authorization from the other. And in the most extreme cases, parents can lose their parental authority over their kids’ image rights “if the dissemination of the child’s image by both parents seriously affects the child’s dignity or moral integrity.”
If this bill becomes law in France, it’ll be a noteworthy example other countries can look to in preventing child exploitation online.