When my son searches for his name online, one of the first things that pops up is a story from our local newspaper documenting his birth. When he was younger, he thought it was neat that his picture and name made it into the local paper. These days he couldn’t care less about the article, and is instead focused on creating his own online presence.
As he does that, though, will his own posts and achievements take precedence on Google’s search result algorithm? Or will he enter adulthood with the digital footprint I created when he was an infant?
I’ve spent much of the past four years researching “sharenting,” or the intersection of a parent’s right to share and a child’s right to control his digital footprint. I’ve explored the legal options that could be available to children who think their parents shared too much, and I’ve set forth best practices that parents might want to consider before sharing about their children online. I’ve also worked with pediatrician Bahareh Keith, discussing the pediatrician’s role in helping parents make well-informed sharenting choices. Yet even for parents with the best of intentions, children might one day come to resent that they shared anything — positive or negative — online.
Some would argue that this means parents should stop all sharing online. For many parents, this is a viable option. But just as children have a right to privacy, in the United States, parents also have a First Amendment right to free speech and in most cases, a right to control how their children are brought up. This means that as a society, we value letting parents make decisions about how to raise their kids. To that end, we also value giving parents control over how they share about their kids online.
There is value in sharing our stories — whether it is…