A toddler with birthday cake smeared across his face grins at his mother. Minutes later, the image appears on Facebook.

A not uncommon scenario - 42 per cent of UK parents share photos of their children online with half of these parents sharing photos at least once a month.

Welcome to the world of "sharenting" - where more than 80 per cent of children are said to have an online presence by the age of 2, and where the average parent shares almost 1500 images of their child online before their 5th birthday.

But while a recent report from Ofcom confirms many parents do share images of their children online, the report also indicates more than half (56 per cent) of parents don't.


Most of these non-sharenting parents (87 per cent) choose not to do so to protect their children's private lives.


Parents often have good reasons for sharenting. It allows them to find and share parenting advice, to obtain emotional and practical support, and to maintain contact with relatives and friends.

Increasingly though, concerns are being raised about "oversharenting" - when parents share too much, or share inappropriate information.

Sharenting can result in the identification of a child's home, childcare or play location or the disclosure of identifying information which could pose risks to the child.

While many sharenters says they are conscious of the potential impact of their actions, and consider their children's views before sharenting, a recent House of Lords report on the matter suggests not all parents do.

The "growing up with the internet" report reveals some parents share information they know will embarrass their children - and some never consider their children's interests before they post.


Police in France and Germany have taken concrete steps to address sharenting concerns.

They have posted Facebook warnings, telling parents of the dangers of sharenting, and stressing the importance of protecting children's private lives.


Back in the UK, some academics have suggested the Government should educate parents to ensure they understand the importance of protecting their child's digital identity. But should the "nanny state" be telling parents how and when they can share their children's information?

It's clearly a tricky area to regulate, but the Government's recently published data protection bill may provide at least a partial answer.

In its 2017 manifesto, the Conservative party pledged to give people rights to ensure they are in control of their data, including the ability to require major social media platforms to delete information.

In the recent Queen's Speech, the Government confirmed its commitment to reforming data protection law.

And in August, it published a statement of intent providing more detail of its proposed reforms. In relation to the so-called "right to be forgotten", the Government states that: Individuals will be able to ask for their personal data to be erased.

Users will also be able to ask social media platforms to delete information they posted during their childhood.

The primary purpose of the data protection bill is to bring the new EU General Data Protection Regulation into UK law. This is to ensure UK law continues to accord with European data protection law post-Brexit.

It could also provide a solution for children whose parents like to sharent, because the new laws specify an individual or organisation must obtain explicit consent or have some other legitimate basis to share an individual's personal data.

This means that before a parent shares their child's information online they should ask whether the child agrees.

Of course, this doesn't mean parents are suddenly going to start asking for their children's consent to sharent.

But if a parent doesn't obtain their child's consent, or the child decides in the future they are no longer happy for that sharented information to be online, children could use the "right to erasure" to ask for social network providers and other websites to remove sharented information.

Not perhaps a perfect answer, but for now it's one way to put a stop to those embarrassing mugshots ending up in cyberspace for years to come.

- The Conversation