Children’s Rights Litigation
Social media is taking over the globe. The Pew Research Internet Project states that in the United States, 95 percent of 12- to 17-year-old children are online. Teenagers are also sharing more and more information online: 91 percent of teenagers post a photo of themselves, 92 percent post their real name, and 71 percent post the city or town where they live. “Teens Fact Sheet,” Pew Res. Internet Project (Sept. 2012). This information, in the wrong hands, can be harmful to a child. The Children’s Online Privacy Protection Rule, designed to safeguard children’s information and access online, is a start, but it defines a child as someone under age 13, thus excluding the majority of underage Internet users: kids ages 13–18.
As attorneys for children, therefore, it is important that we talk to our clients about the use—and misuse—of social media. Children need to be aware that what they share on social media is never completely private and can be used against them, or against people they care about. One New York attorney notes that her office always advises kids to take down their social media sites completely once a case has begun, especially where the parties in the case are known to each other, but kids seldom comply (or they report they have complied when they haven’t). This is because the draw of social media, especially on teens, is extremely powerful. The key point for attorneys to remember about electronic communication is that privacy is never guaranteed. As the child’s lawyer, you will want to protect your client’s electronic privacy, while exploiting gaps in the electronic privacy of others.