Today’s children are also the first generation to have their personal information shared online from birth. According to Ms Seery, both public and private sector agencies are now in a unique position.
“It means they have access to lifelong digital records of a child’s personal information, opening the door to its use in determining access to public services such as social security, access to justice, and the provision of healthcare, including access to affordable insurance.
These potential impacts could extend beyond childhood, leading to lifelong inequalities.”
While many parents are aware that sharing their child’s date-of-birth online is not a wise thing to do – Ms Seery believes many might not understand the reasons why.
Barclay’s Bank recently revealed that parents are compromising their children's future financial security with so much online sharing. Barclay's Bank forecasts by 2030 it could cost almost $1billion in online fraud.
The bank's security specialists blame social media for making identity fraud easier than ever. As parents publish so much personal information, which remains online even when they’re adults, they are potentially making their children "fraud targets" in the future.
“We’ve seen employers and recruiters scanning a person’s profile as part of the recruitment process; I don’t think it is particularly far-fetched to envision these kinds of measures being taken by educational institutions when assessing a child’s enrolment, for example. An unfortunate post might have serious implications for our children’s education,” Ms Seery says.
“There have also been many examples of photos shared on social media turning up on porn sites.
“There have been suggestions that ‘sharenting’ could even have legal implications for parents. And, while some children encourage parents to post photos or videos about them online, there is clear evidence that not all children are comfortable having their life scattered across the internet.”
Ms Seery said countries like Australia needed to step up and develop measures that effectively respond to child rights and welfare in the digital environment.
“Measures could include the introduction of prompts prior to posting photos or videos of children online, restricting the sharing of content that includes a child’s information, disabling photo ‘tagging’ of children, changes to the Privacy Act, and the introduction of mandatory reporting for tech companies,” she said.
According to Ms Seery there are several hurdles to overcome in addressing these issues. Some of these hurdles include:
- A lack of data on how children’s information is disseminated online.
- Inadequate regulation of the online environment.
- Few domestic legal protections for children.
- Adult users lacking the necessary digital literacy.
- A cultural approach that defers to parents always knowing what’s best for their child and a presumption that they are acting in their interest.
“We need to see more education for parents and children to raise awareness about the risks of sharing information online. And governments must work with tech companies to ensure they are providing child-safe environments, with regulation in place that protects children’s information,” Ms Seery says.
“The decision to enter the digital environment invites a number of significant risks, both online and offline. Children must have the right to choose when and how they enter the digital environment and be protected from dangers that arise from others sharing their information.”