HomeData Privacy Law DigestUnreasonable parenting, ‘Sharenting’ and Reckless Disregard of Children’s Privacy in Nigeria: The...

Unreasonable parenting, ‘Sharenting’ and Reckless Disregard of Children’s Privacy in Nigeria: The Case Study of ‘Atoole’ Challenge on Twitter

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By Olumide Babalola

On Saturday (21st October 2023) night, I went to bed pondering the content of my discussion at the University of Bournemouth, United Kingdom where I have been invited to speak on the role of social media and its impact on education in a fortnight. On Sunday morning, a Twitter link was shared in one of my WhatsApp groups containing a video titled “Atoole Challenge” recorded by the mother shaming her child for bedwetting! Apart from the moral questions about the mother’s motive for shaming the innocent child on the Internet, this video yet again throws up legal issues surrounding the rights of a child, especially the right to privacy. ‘Atoole’ in Yoruba means ‘someone who bed wets.’ Bedwetting – a medical term called “Enuresis” – is a common dilemma for children, for which medical advice can be sought. Punishing a child for bedwetting is not a medically advised solution. I won’t say more about the tasteless video which deserves to be blotted out of the Internet for the poor child’s mental protection.

Sharenting and children’s privacy

‘Sharenting’ is a technical coinage for ‘sharing representations of one’s parenting or children online’ (see Alicia Blim-Ross, ‘Sharenting,” parent blogging, and the boundaries of the digital self’ (2017) 15(2) The International Journal of Media and Culture, 110). Flowing with the sometimes-extreme rave for content creation or sheer uncontrolled exuberance, parents now often share their children’s pictures or videos on social media or other digital platforms without considering the children’s choices or online safety. As desirable as it is for parents to flaunt their children on social media, the ills of creating digital footprints for this vulnerable lot may outweigh the ‘wokeness’ of their social media presence at such early stages of their societal consciousness.

In addition to the constitutionally guaranteed right to privacy in favour of all Nigerian citizens, every child enjoys the right to privacy under the Child’s Rights Act (CRA) which prohibits interference with such right by anyone including parents or guardians (see section 8(1) and (2). Privacy contemplates protection against unjustified intrusions or undesired publicity, especially in such a manner that demeans an individual including children. The Atoole video does not only give the child undesirable publicity, the vide is embarrassing, condescending and demeaning to the child in wanton violation of the child’s right to privacy.

Unreasonable parenting and children’s privacy

Most parents would generally assume or argue that they morally and legally exercise control or supervision over most aspects of a child’s life until adulthood, but such a position is not entirely true with respect to the right to privacy. The CRA circumscribes such control or supervision within the confines of ‘reasonableness’ (section 8(3). Irrespective of the standards or reasoning, sharing a child’s video showing he/she bedwets on the Internet transcends the realm of reasonableness into borderline child abuse with a strict indictment on the parents. A parent’s desire to share information about their children online must always be balanced with the children’s privacy demands and such decisions must always pass the test of reasonableness.

Conclusively, parents should quit assuming that their children want to feature in their social media activities and if they must be involved, a reasonable test must be applied to protect the children’s sensitivity. Children ought to be guaranteed the same measure of privacy as their adult counterparts and any violation of children’s privacy by their parents amounts to child abuse.

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