Faced with the dangers of the Internet, the National Assembly passed a law aimed at protecting the image rights of children, whose parents post photos and videos on social networks. Content that quickly escapes them…
Even though they are not old enough to know how to type on a keyboard or use a smartphone, children find themselves exposed on social networks and inherit, from the start of their lives, a serious liability on Internet, which could be detrimental to them later. Whether it’s through staging intended to make people laugh, influencers who use their family life to earn money or simply photos posted on Facebook to show the family that the youngest is doing well, the Exposure on the Internet is not without consequence and children’s image rights are rarely respected.
Faced with these increasingly common and potentially dangerous practices, the National Assembly adopted on Monday, March 6, 2023 a bill aimed at empowering parents and better protecting children’s image rights in the face of certain abuses. , as reported The world. Presented by MP Bruno Studer (Renaissance) and supported by the Government, it was adopted unanimously – a climate of consensus which is particularly rare at the moment. It must now be considered by the Senate. This law is part of a set of texts aimed at protecting children from the dangers of social networks, in particular with the establishment of the digital majority at 15 years for social networks (see our article).
Image rights of children: preventing educational dangers and violence
Children, even before they are old enough to surf the Web, are particularly exposed on the Internet. According to figures quoted by parliamentarians and the executive, a child “appears on average in 1,300 photographs published online before the age of 13, on his own accounts, those of his parents or relatives”. While parents must respect the intimacy and privacy of their children a study by the Observatory of Parenthood and Digital Education (Open) published in early February reports that 53% of French parents have already shared content about their children, and 43% of them started as soon as the child was born.
Sometimes things go further than just sharing a photo of a birthday party with friends. In the race for views and likes, parents do not hesitate to reproduce “trends” on social networks by staging or playing “pranks” on their offspring. Thus, on TikTok – again and again – the “Cheese Challenge” is in vogue. Videos where adults have fun throwing a slice of cheese in the face of the little one and filming him crying and struggling as best he can to remove it, have been viewed millions of times. The ‘kids police’ are also a big hit: the parent plays a recording of a fake policeman claiming to pick up the child because he is naughty – and of course the child is usually in tears , which makes Internet users laugh. “These practices are similar to digital educational violence, while we fought to eradicate spanking and other humiliating practices”indignant Thomas Rohmer, president of the Observatory of parenting and digital education. In addition, the children appearing in the photos or videos often find themselves in improbable or humiliating situations, they may subsequently be the target of cyberbullying.
The bill voted by the National Assembly provides that the right to the image of the minor is exercised jointly by both parents taking into account the opinion of the child. If there is disagreement between the parents, the judge may prohibit one of them “to publish or distribute any content without the authorization of the other”. In the event of a serious violation of dignity, the text opens the way “to a forced delegation of parental authority”, giving the possibility to a judge to entrust the exercise of the child’s image rights to a third party. The goal is to “empowering parents” while showing minors that “Parents do not have an absolute right over their image”explains Bruno Studer.
The new law aims to extend that of 2020 aimed at regulating the hours and income of minors whose image is broadcast on the platforms. Because yes, who says social networks, says influencers. Thus, according to the Open study, 85% of influencer parents publish photos/videos of their children at least once a week, and 38% at least once a day. Only 44% say they get their child’s consent before posting about them – but they still need to understand what that entails. Some make their children the center of their business, and this is not a small appearance every now and then. They do not hesitate to stage their family life in vlogs – video blogs – in order to generate maximum advertising revenue or to practice unboxing – the adult films while the child unpacks toys or various products to promote it.
For the biggest channels, the rate is enormous, with sometimes several videos per day. Among the best known on YouTube are Swan & Neo (more than 6 million subscribers, created in 2015) and Studio Bubble Tea (nearly 2 million subscribers). And this is not without consequences for children. Still according to the Open study, 60% of influencer parents say that it takes up to an hour to prepare and that two to ten takes are necessary before a publication. Here again, only 42% declare that they do not encroach on the rest, homework or leisure time of their offspring for the production of content. Unfortunately, not everyone is aware of the law of October 2020, according to which parents who broadcast the image of a child under the age of 16 on a video-sharing platform must request authorization or approval from administration. In addition, part of the income received must be placed with the Caisse des dépôts et consignations until the child reaches majority or is emancipated. However, 33% of influencer parents are unaware of the existence of this legal framework… The Government therefore plans, in parallel, to change the legislation to regulate the business of influencers (see our article).
One of the problems with the Internet, in addition to the fact that all content posted stays on the Web for years, is that publications can quickly spiral out of control and be diverted from their original, completely innocent purpose. Thus, Bruno Studer reveals that “50% of the photos that are exchanged on child pornography forums were initially published by parents on their social networks. Certain images, in particular photos of naked babies or young girls in gym clothes, are of particular interest to child criminal circles”.
In 2018, The Rat Kinga YouTuber specializing in Internet excesses, had investigated and identified a network of Internet users who shared thousands of YouTube videos of children practicing gymnastics. “As soon as we see a split, a leotard, nudity, the videos of these children, which very rarely exceed a hundred views, have several thousand, even several hundred thousand views”, explained the youtubeur. By following the trail of these videos, he had arrived on a video sharing network for pedophiles. And this is just one example among many others… It is therefore more important than ever to make parents aware of the dangers of digital technology and to take the necessary precautions (see our article). And, if a family photo is published, it is better to put a sticker on the child’s face or completely blur it (see our practical sheet)!