From baby pictures in the cloud to a high school's digital surveillance system: how adults unwittingly compromise children's privacy online.
Our children's first digital footprints are made before they can walk—even before they are born—as parents use fertility apps to aid conception, post ultrasound images, and share their baby's hospital mug shot. Then, in rapid succession come terabytes of baby pictures stored in the cloud, digital baby monitors with built-in artificial intelligence, and real-time updates from daycare. When school starts, there are cafeteria cards that catalog food purchases, bus passes that track when kids are on and off the bus, electronic health records in the nurse's office, and a school surveillance system that has eyes everywhere. Unwittingly, parents, teachers, and other trusted adults are compiling digital dossiers for children that could be available to everyone—friends, employers, law enforcement—forever. In this incisive book, Leah Plunkett examines the implications of “sharenthood”—adults' excessive digital sharing of children's data. She outlines the mistakes adults make with kids' private information, the risks that result, and the legal system that enables “sharenting.”
Plunkett describes various modes of sharenting—including “commercial sharenting,” efforts by parents to use their families' private experiences to make money—and unpacks the faulty assumptions made by our legal system about children, parents, and privacy. She proposes a “thought compass” to guide adults in their decision making about children's digital data: play, forget, connect, and respect. Enshrining every false step and bad choice, Plunkett argues, can rob children of their chance to explore and learn lessons. The Internet needs to forget. We need to remember.
About the Author
Leah Plunkett is Associate Dean for Administration, Associate Professor of Legal Skills, and Director of Academic Success at the University of New Hampshire School of Law. She is Faculty Associate at the Berkman Klein Center for Internet and Society at Harvard University.
John Palfrey is Head of School at Phillips Academy, Andover, coauthor of Born Digital: How Children Grow Up in a Digital Age, and author of the MIT Press Essential Knowledge volume Intellectual Property Strategy.
"Unlike accounts either demonizing or defending social media, Plunkett charts an original course in asking adults, and urging law, to embrace youth as a time for experimentation. This book offers tools to empower youth and a nuanced, cogent assessment of the challenges in protecting privacy in the digital age." – Rachel Rebouché, Associate Dean for Research, Professor of Law, Temple University Beasley School of Law; author of Governance Feminism: An Introduction, and Family Law (6th edition).
"Plunkett, a lawyer with experience defending young clients, provides a much-needed perspective on the rise of ‘sharenting,’ which she defines as the sharing of a child’s private information through digital platforms. With an eye for history, a critique of the US legal system, and a penchant for storytelling, in this book she offers parents, caregivers, educators, and citizens important insights on how best to navigate the digital terrain." – Lynn Schofield Clark, author of The Parent App: Understanding Families in a Digital Age
"In Sharenthood, Leah Plunkett deftly explores the challenges inherent in raising children in the digital age, from the unique perspective of a legal scholar. Rather than fear-mongering about what anonymous bad guys might do to our children, she notes what we, ourselves, as parents already are doing every day — often for no reward greater than ‘likes.’ The book is a bracing and provocative look at the present and a prescient warning about our potential futures." – Dorothy Fortenberry, writer/producer, The Handmaid's Tale on Hulu
"A fascinating and frightening addition to the literature on the technological reconstruction of childhood and parenting. Plunkett details how taken-for-granted adult data-sharing behaviors, legally sanctioned and cynically encouraged by tech companies, constrain what our children are and can become. She sounds a loud warning — and proposes a significant cultural reorientation. We would be wise to listen!"– Joshua Meyrowitz, Professor Emeritus of Media Studies, University of New Hampshire; author of No Sense of Place: The Impact of Electronic Media on Social Behavior