【明報專訊】If you were a small child today, chances are that many of your activities, what you wear, how you play, and where you have vacationed, would have been captured by your parents and posted on social media — without you knowing or agreeing to it. For a seemingly innocuous (無害的) thing to do, the parents, who are proud of their child and who are captivated by the appeal of social media, cannot wait to share exciting photos and videos of their child. They engage in what has been called ''sharenting''.
Leah Plunkett, an American legal expert in digital privacy law, said in her 2019 book Sharenthood: Why We Should Think before We Talk about Our Kids Online that ''sharenting'' — parenting through sharing — occurs when an adult transmits private images or information about a child online without the child's consent. This cautious thinking may baffle the innocent parent, who would never think their delight and pride of their child would be viewed as infringement on their privacy. ''Look, my five-year-old son is playing the piano!''; ''My daughter fumbled and fell into the pool, what a mess! But she looked so cute when all wet!'' These sentiments are innocent enough, if only they point to a new era of parenthood in which parental pride mixes with the urges of sharing — and obtaining others' positive ''likes'' — in the digital age.
Some teenagers, who have passively had their photos posted on social media for a number of years by their parents, have begun to raise questions. While some just express being annoyed, others raise a more serious matter: children do not get to choose to not be on the Internet. They would like to have been asked. As savvy social media users at an early age, these teenagers understand all too well that once your photos are posted, they enter into a depthless universe characterised by endless circulation, random copying, and lasting storage in some digital clouds. More, your digitised self may be subject to manipulation by total strangers, including identity fraud. The possibility of harm is real, and perhaps the proud parent had not considered the long-term repercussions enough. At a time when adults are increasingly aware of data privacy and surveillance, the ones who practice ''sharenting'' might want to pause and think about the long-term consequences, however unintended, that are being brought to their children, from feeling embarrassed about something they did when they were younger, to feeling vulnerable about their appearance or their ability.
John Erni is a university professor at Hong Kong Baptist University. He thinks everyday culture is complex but always enchanting.