France may limit influencers oversharing kids online – should NZ follow?

Social media.

Kiwi influencers have reacted to a proposed bill in France that may limit parents sharing content of their kids online.

The legislation, proposed by French MP Bruno Studer, is aiming to protect children’s privacy and prevent them facing abuse in the future as a result what their parents posted online.

A New Zealand influencer, who has asked to remain anonymous, told 1News she recently made the decision to stop posting photos of her young kids online.

The woman, who has over 100,000 followers on Instagram, said a turning point for her was when someone recognised her toddler in public.

"It hit me like a tonne of bricks, I thought just because this person is by face value a nice well-meaning person, doesn't mean every person who recognises my kids is going to be a nice well-meaning person.

"I think it's easy to fall into your social media feeling like a really tight-knit community and that's the great thing about it but it's not necessarily the reality you know, just because I have a few people on there that are kind and engaged and want to see photos of the kids, doesn't mean that's every single person.

"There are a lot of weirdos out there and unfortunately that's just the reality and I read an article a while ago about children's images being used in child pornography sites and all of this stuff, and it just made me think, that is the reality of our world.

"There are a lot of sickos and I don't want anyone having access to my kids, it just really really terrified me."

She said she used to share most things about her kids, like birth announcements with their full names, but she has since removed them.

Asked if Aotearoa should legislate against sharing images of minors online, the woman said it's subjective, and if one person posts a couple of photos of their kids, it's not the same as another person dedicating a whole TikTok account to content of their children.

"I would like to see some kind of protection around children being used as content, I think there's a lot of sponsored content where kids are often used as props and I think there should be some guidelines around that because that's not fair."

'I share my children to a lot of people'

Another Kiwi influencer, who has also asked not to be named, told 1News she is comfortable sharing content of her kids on her Instagram with over 45,000 followers.

She said while she does share images of her children online - who are all under the age of 10 - she does it in a respectful way and is somewhat selective about what she posts.

"I obviously share my children to a lot of people and think I do it in a respectful way and I'm conscious of posting their emotions, and what they're wearing and things like that.

"Then at the same time, my baby is obviously not old enough to consent to that but my other two [kids] absolutely know what I do for work and what they're on and [they] really love it."

She said she "fully appreciates" people may say her kids aren't old enough to consent to their photos being put online but there are regular family discussions about what gets posted.

"I would never post put-downs, and how I talk about parenting things that are hard currently is always in a respectful tone so that it's not something they're going to read one day and go 'oh my god mum wrote this about me.'"

"It's about treating them with respect as humans, as people, and not exploiting them even though people will absolutely think I exploit my children."

She said if New Zealand introduced laws stopping parents from posting their kids online she and other influencers would adapt.

"The internet is a really weird place and it being your job is a really weird place to be and you'll see someone with the argument that they shouldn't be on there and you definitely feel that and are like. OK I fully understand all the points."

"I completely understand the bill that's trying to be passed but then at the same time when you think about it, it's kind of taking away the discretion of the parent, taking away that decision from a parent."

She said said platforms like TikTok can have some "horrific" content and there may come a time where more rules and regulations are introduced.

"Obviously there's a point where someone needs to step in if a child's best interests are not at the forefront but then I guess where do you draw the line."

Expert reacts

Canterbury University professor Ekant Veer says he can "fully understand" why France wants to introduce this law.

Veer told 1News there has been a significant increase in the number of parents sharing content of their kids on the internet.

He said there are two aspects to it, one being the child's privacy and consent, but also protecting them from predators.

"When you turn 18 and you realise your whole life has been put on display for the whole world to see, you don't get a chance to rescrub that from the internet."

File photo of a child.

"The part that I think is particularly alarming is the statistic that 50% of child pornography images started off as social media posts."

Asked if New Zealand should introduce similar laws, he said Aotearoa does need to have a closer look at how to protect children on social media.

"We need to be having this conversation because there are definitely TikTokers in particular who are exploiting their kids in order to get likes and shares."

Veer said his message to Kiwi parents with large followings is to remember their children are their children, not toys or a product.

"It's also a case of understanding that anything you post won't go away so if you post videos or pictures of your kids doing stuff you think is funny now, but actually could get them bullied later on, then maybe don't do it."

He said people can post their kids on private accounts, but even then there is risk.

"The best thing to do is keep those memories, keep them to yourselves and then let your child decide whether they want to share that in the future or not.

"Have that conversation but be really mindful about what you share and how it can be misconstrued or misused."


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