Master’s degree in Child Care and Protection graduate Ms Raylene Meth researched the impact “sharenting” through social media has on the rights and protection of children.
‘I am concerned about the safety and protection of children on social media as too much personal information is shared by parents/caregivers – I feel that too much sharing of children’s personal information on social media without considering their best interests violates their right to privacy, puts them in danger and limits their freedom to be just children. We live in a digital world, whereby technology is improving by the day so are the crimes related to technology. I therefore realised there was maybe a gap on regulating sharenting and I was curious as to what the South African law says about it. I believe that this research will bring about awareness of such practice,’ said Meth, who was supervised by Dr Rowena Bernard.
Her study revealed that parents seldom consider the best interests of the child or seek their consent when posting and sharing information about them on social media. Meth also highlighted that by 2030, the practice of “sharenting” could be responsible for as many as seven million cases of identity theft (MaryAnne, 2021).
A study conducted by Barclays Bank estimates that by 2030, two-thirds of identity theft could be attributed to “sharenting” (Coughlan, 2018), while a study by Microsoft showed that by 2030, the oversharing of children’s information on social media could be a primary cause of over two-thirds of identity theft (Beauchere, 2019).
‘The law does not adequately protect children from “sharenting”, especially in South Africa where lessons need to be learned from legislation across the world, including the United States and the European Union,’ said Meth.
As a social worker practising in KwaMashu, she is excited about the contributions the qualification will make to her personal development and her work with children, parents and the community at large.
‘Completing this qualification was a huge challenge! When COVID-19 hit, as civil servants we had to work extra hard for our communities and people. I was one of the frontline social workers and I was part of a trauma response team for emergency cases,’ said Meth.
‘So, time for studying was significantly disturbed. When we thought the worst was over, there was social unrest in July 2021 which turned my study life upside down. My office was at Bridge City Centre which was destroyed during looting. We were displaced because we lost everything in the fire and looting. I then had to shift my total focus to my work – the destroyed files contained details on the lives and real stories of what our people go through. It was only passion, determination, drive and resilience that kept me going,’ she said.
• Sharenting is an over sharing of children’s personal information by parents, caregivers or relatives typically on online platforms. This information can include photographs, videos, personal stories and other personal updates about the child’s life.
• MaryAnne, I (2021) “Parents, stop over-sharing about your child on the internet”, IOL News, Oct 5, 2021- https://www.iol.co.za
• Coughlan, S (2018) “Sharenting puts young people at risk of online fraud”, BBC News. https://www.bbc.co.uk/news/education-44153754
• Beauchere, J (2019) “Teens say parents share too much about them online”, Microsoft study. https://blogs.microsoft.com
Words: Thandiwe Jumo