Can you control a child’s social media exposure?

by Kate Marr on October 19, 2016

Kate Marr

We all have friends who tend to clog up our Facebook newsfeed with photos of their child. Whilst that parent is obviously very proud that their child smiled, has a new outfit, ate something or went to the toilet that day, (despite my sarcasm) Facebook and other social media outlets has become an effective way to let all your family and friends know what you are up to.

Sharing of photos and providing personal information should however be done with caution. An article published on the SBS website on 20 May 2016, stated that “sharing photos of children online is an ethical minefield that few people consider when deciding which Instagram filter makes their kids look cuter and the parents less tired.”

Whilst parents are permitted to upload pictures of their children in a public forum, there is an assumption by the parent that they have given informed consent to share the photo with their ‘friends’ only. What however is concerning, is that depending on the parent’s privacy settings and what their ‘friends’ do with the photo (ie they could reshare the photo), the photo uploaded could be viewed by a huge amount of people that they do not know.

There is the risk that the image could be digitally altered or even accessed by pedophiles. Once the image is out there, whilst there can be avenues to take criminal action, the damage is already done and may not be deleted or rectified.

There are some people I know who are removing there social media accounts or are just not sharing any photos or information online. However, people’s presence on social media is not likely to slow down anytime soon.

When separating from a spouse, the other parent could take issue with the amount of photo-sharing taking place in relation to their child. In this circumstance, a proposed order that a party to litigation seeks, could be a restraint on the other parent uploading photos of the child/children on social media. The court would need to determine whether such order was in the child’s best interests.

As technology advances and how people communicate changes, it seems inevitable that the Federal Circuit Court of Australia and the Family Court of Australia will need to keep up and, if the facts of the case warrant, on a case by case basis, decide whether such injunctions are warranted.

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