Sharenting in South Korea and United States


Thursday, July 23, 2020

Leah Plunkett

Associate Dean Leah Plunkett and 3L Derek Kunhee Kim discuss the comparative international law perspective on sharenting, focusing on differences between the United States and South Korea.

Check out Associate Dean Leah Plunkett's book "Sharenthood: Why We Should Think Before We Talk about Our Kids Online" at https://leahplunkett.com/

Get an email when the latest episode releases and ever miss an episode by subscribing on Apple PodcastGoogle PlayStitcher, and Spotify!

UNH Franklin Pierce School of Law is now accepting applications for JD, Graduate Programs, and Online Professional Certificates at https://law.unh.edu 

Legal topics include digital privacy, parenting, social media, terms of service, Sharenting, South Korea, constitution

Read the Transcript

A. J. Kierstead (Host):

Associate Dean Leah Plunkett and 3L Derek Kunhee Kim discussed the comparative international law perspective on sharenting, focusing on the United States and South Korea. This is the Legal Impact presented by the University of New Hampshire Franklin Pierce School of Law. Now accepting applications for J.D. graduate programs and online professional certificates. Learn more and apply at law.unh.edu. Opinions discussed are solely the opinion of the faculty or hosts and do not constitute legal advice or necessarily represent the official views of the University of New Hampshire.

A. J. Kierstead (Host):

So thank you both for joining me today. This will be a continuation of a conversation that you both had this past year and an ongoing conversation that we've had with associate Dean Plunkett over just the concept of sharenting. But to start off with Leah, could you give a quick definition of sharenting for those of you who aren't regular listeners?

Leah Plunkett:

Thank you so much, A.J. It's wonderful to be here. I define sharenting as all of the ways that parents, grandparents, aunts, uncles, teachers, and other trusted adults disclose children's private information using digital technologies.

Leah Plunkett:

And the focus of our conversation will be on parents today, but I do define sharenting more broadly to include all of these trusted adults in children's lives and to go beyond what parents say on social media, while that is a huge component of sharenting, the reality is that sharenting takes place across a range of tech products and services, everything from fertility tracking apps that expectant moms may use, to tracking watches and apps that we give our kids to keep an eye on their whereabouts, to at home assistants like an Alexa or a Siri. Those can also all be tools of sharenting because they are taking children's private information and transmitting it outside of the home.

A. J. Kierstead (Host):

To kick things off, I'm assuming there's a big difference in policy international and when it comes to privacy for children and parents.

Leah Plunkett:

Yeah, maybe I'll start with the U.S. Perspective and then turn it over to Derek. So when we talk about sharenting here in the United States, and I'm going to focus right now specifically on parents, even though, as I was saying earlier, sharenting is about more than parents, but when we talk about parents in the United States and their decisions about whether, when, why, how, with whom to sharent, there are very, very few legal restrictions on that.

Leah Plunkett:

So I'm a mom. I've got two young kids. If I wanted to go on my Facebook page after this podcast and write three pages about everything my children have done today and include their social security numbers and include pictures of them in bathing suits and include information about their hopes and fears, I could do that as long as I am not violating any criminal laws or other areas of law not related to sharenting in particular.

Leah Plunkett:

And what I mean by that is I can't as a parent, heaven forbid, abuse or neglect my children, film it, and put it on Facebook or YouTube and say that I'm not guilty of abuse and neglect because it was sharenting. Those laws that prevent me from abuse, neglect, or other criminal behavior against my children still apply.

Leah Plunkett:

But there is no federal law in the United States that requires me as a parent to get any sort of consent from my child before I divulge their private information through digital technologies. And we have a setup where the major way that sharenting takes place through websites, apps, other digital products is through a notice and consent system. If you could see me, I would put a consent in quotes because we all know that actually reading through the pages and pages of what Facebook or any other company says it's going to do with your private information is something pretty much no one does.

Leah Plunkett:

But as a parent, I make those decisions on behalf of my kids when they use those products, especially if they're under 13. And more relevant to our conversation, I make those decisions for myself as a parent in deciding whether I want to use a given digital product or service to share information about my child.

Leah Plunkett:

And here in the United States, the norms around sharenting are generally very pro-sharent. There's some pushback on this in certain quarters. But if you go on, if you're a parent in the United States, and you check out your social media feed, or you check out the range of products that are in your home or in your kid's friends' parents homes, you are going to see a norm of a lot of disclosure around things that kids often really regret their parents sharing. Things like toilet training and temper tantrums and really kind of letting it all hang out in a way that children can find very destabilizing, especially as they get older.

Leah Plunkett:

And I will turn it over to Derek now to talk about how the comparative perspective for South Korea looks the same or different or somewhere in between. Derek, over to you.

Derek Kunhee Kim:

Well, thank you so much, Dean Plunkett. I want to start off by saying it was very interesting and fun how we got to this topic, how we got to this conversation. We were both talking about sharenting, how this is very much a hot topic issue that we really think your book has really hit a niche that hasn't really been addressed quite yet.

Derek Kunhee Kim:

And it was interesting how me being from Korea and having spent lot of time in the United States, however, seeing how both countries get to the topic of sharenting in their different ways. So even though it's different countries, different cultures, sharenting is very much an issue. However, the bodies of law that get to sharenting that really address it are a bit different.

Derek Kunhee Kim:

I remember us talking about the best translation for will be called personality rights or portrait rights. This is part of the Korean Constitution and, South Korea being a relatively small country of about 50 million people. A lot of times I feel like in the U.S. people think of the Constitution and they think something grand and the Revolutionary War, but for a smaller country, everything is national law.

Derek Kunhee Kim:

So the constitution actually comes into place a lot of times just in daily life. So talking about this idea of portrait and personality rights, actually Article 10 of the Korean Constitution talks about the right to human worth and dignity. And often in Korea, that has been tied to this idea of not only the right to freedom and privacy, but the right to portrait or personality or image. So it's this idea that one has a right to not have their portrait or their likeness, their personality used publicly without their permission.

Derek Kunhee Kim:

Now, when you think about this, this is basically talking about sharenting just in a legalistic sense. This idea that somebody's face or somebody's body and what they're doing shouldn't be put out there in the public without their own permission is exactly what I think sharenting addresses.

Derek Kunhee Kim:

In fact, in Korea there has been cases where people have been able to sue and be victorious in their suits because their image was shared on a public social media site without their permission. Now let's fast forward, 15-20 years down the road, and now we have kids who are going to be looking at their parent's Instagrams or Facebooks, and basically their whole lives have been portrayed without the permissions up to this point.

Derek Kunhee Kim:

I think this is going to raise some really interesting legal issues. And I think sharenting it's going to be right at the heart of that. So again, it's been really cool to see how the U.S. has their way of dealing with it, but it's also been really interesting bringing a Korean perspective and seeing how the Korean Constitution and this idea of portrait and personality rights have come into play, particularly with sharenting.

Leah Plunkett:

I agree. That is really, really interesting. And I think it takes a much more human rights centered perspective than we do in the U.S. We, when it comes to sharenting, again, when we're talking about just your garden variety sharenting of what do I say about my child on social media? We're we are taking the idea that parents know what is best for their children and that our homes are our castles to use the familiar phrase, and that parents should be the ones serving as gatekeepers between their kids and the outside world.

Leah Plunkett:

And while there, I believe, is a lot of pragmatic and ethical value to those concepts in general, they kind of fall down when it comes to sharenting because parents don't have the ability, even those of us who are very invested in trying to figure it out, to parse all of the terms and conditions of use, the privacy policies and so on for all of these products and services. And they're really written in a way that leaves a lot of discretion to the tech provider.

Leah Plunkett:

So even for folks who do go through and try to parse all of those pages, you're going to find language that allows the provider to make changes or to engage in certain types of product research and so on. And so the idea that parents know best combined with the pro-tech company, and really not so welcoming for consumers, in this case parents, legal landscape here, we're leaving our kids very vulnerable.

Leah Plunkett:

Derek, one question I have for you. I'm going to assume that most of our listeners are in the United States. Can you tell us if you were a parent in South Korea or if you are South Korean and living in the United States and have friends or family in South Korea, what would your social media feed be likely to contain in terms of sharenting?

Leah Plunkett:

I shared earlier, pun intended on sharenting, I shared earlier that my social media feed as a parent in the U.S. is likely to contain a lot of sharenting, everything from cute pictures to embarrassing disclosures. If I were a parent in South Korea instead, what would my social media feed look like?

Derek Kunhee Kim:

I think that's a great question, Dean Plunkett, and it really nails the cultural differences at play here and how those cultural differences really contribute to how sharenting differs across cultures and across countries.

Derek Kunhee Kim:

I would say for me, being on Instagram, I follow a lot of parents both in Korea, in the United States, from both backgrounds. And I think, the biggest difference I see is that a lot of times in the U.S., I see parents sharing just about everything you could possibly imagine. Everything from my kid just got potty trained. My kid, the date at the prom, date at homecoming, lost their first tooth. And I'm saying, "Man, this is straight up a digital diary from day one." You're talking about some really great triumphs, as you know, graduation or homecoming day would be, but I'm also seeing some embarrassing things out there.

Derek Kunhee Kim:

Kids with their clothes off. It's a bit more way out there. It's a bit more blunt in the U.S. when I see sharenting. In Korea on the other hand, it's a bit more subtle. And this is something we talked about and laughed over in our original conversation is it's much more subtle. It's much more kept back. It's not just sharing just about life, whatever they're doing.

Derek Kunhee Kim:

But for example, when I saw one of my friends who got pregnant, it was a picture of her hand and her husband's hand kind of making a heart over the pregnant belly. So it's very a bit more subtle. It's like, "Hey, we're pregnant, but we're not just putting it out there. We're not putting our x-rays. We're not putting pictures at the hospital."

Derek Kunhee Kim:

So it's a bit more subtle, and it's a bit more, how do I say it? Maybe a bit more artsy is also the way I would put it, but does that answer your question, Dean Plunkett?

Leah Plunkett:

It does, and that's extremely helpful. And it raises something that is very important for all of us as parents or grandparents or teachers or other trusted adults to be thinking about, which is that there are ways to communicate news that is important to us as adults and also something that those people that we are related to or friends with or online friends with will care about. Like, "Oh my gosh, we're welcoming a new family member!"

Leah Plunkett:

But there are ways to do it that are subtle and share the news that really belongs to the parent or other adult without jeopardizing the privacy interests, that even if the law doesn't recognize, I think as an ethical and lived experience matter, we would want our children to have.

Leah Plunkett:

So I appreciate that point of comparison as a way for us to think in the U.S. And A.J., I'd like to turn this over to you for any final questions and wrap up. What do you got?

A. J. Kierstead (Host):

Yeah, I'm curious listening to this huge difference between the two countries is how much do you view this as cultural as opposed to being law-driven?

Leah Plunkett:

Derek, what do you think?

Derek Kunhee Kim:

Well, I think that's a great question. Again, this idea of personality and portrait rights, right? This is something I believe the U.S. Constitution doesn't talk about, and law reflects culture. Law reflects culture, and culture often reflects values.

Derek Kunhee Kim:

So when Dean Plunkett talks about how this is more of a human rights way of looking at sharenting, maybe that's a perspective that sharenting in the U.S. should also take going forward as well because going to this idea of one's image is part of one's own human right. Well, in the case of sharenting, I guess we have to ask, "Well, when does that right start? Does that start from conception? Does that start from the point the baby's born?"

Derek Kunhee Kim:

So again, I think the human rights perspective does reflect the difference in cultures, which also reflects the difference in values. Dean Plunkett, is there anything you would like to add or add like me to clarify?

Leah Plunkett:

No, that's very valuable. I agree. And I think that when you're looking at any digital form of engagement, whether it is sharenting or online teaching or online socializing, any type of digital engagement has a range of enforcement mechanisms. And I don't mean the straightforward, "Oh, the police are going to show up and do X, Y, or Z. Or the government regulator is going to show up."

Leah Plunkett:

I mean that from a governance perspective, digital spaces are by definition relatively unbounded and very iterative. And so when you think about the different ways of setting expectations and boundaries in those spaces, of course, we have laws and we have regulations. Things passed by governments at various levels that we have to follow. We also then will have policies for institutions or communities that we're part of. UNH Law, for instance, has policies related to our digital spaces in our student handbook and elsewhere.

Leah Plunkett:

Then we also have norms and customs and habits and practices, and that's true in sharenting and anywhere else where you are using digital devices. That oftentimes the culture as reflected in our norms and our habits and our practices outpaces the ability for law or regulation or policy to step in and shape or limit behavior.

Leah Plunkett:

So I think that, Derek, your articulation of some of those cultural and norm and habit differences is spot on. And A.J., I think your question was as well. And it's a question that for all of us right now, whether it's sharenting or online learning or online working or online civic engagement, whatever it is, it's really fascinating to be living in real time, as frustrating as it can be also.

Leah Plunkett:

It's really fascinating to be living in real time through how quickly all of us are relying on customs, habits, and practices, and laws and regulations and policies may follow behind as we have to live more and more digitally.

Leah Plunkett:

So it's been a real pleasure to have this conversation with you both. Thank you, A.J. for convening us. And thank you so much, Derek. I've loved having this conversation over the course of this whole academic year. It's one of many wonderful conversations as a professor here that we get to have with our students. And it's great to involve our listeners in this conversation through the podcast.

A. J. Kierstead (Host):

Leah, before we sign off, where can people check out your book?

Leah Plunkett:

Thank you for asking A.J. I have an author website www.leahplunkett.com. My book is Sharenthood put out by MIT Press. There's a paperback edition coming out next month, and there's an open access version available through the MIT Press website.

A. J. Kierstead (Host):

Thanks for listening to the Legal Impact presented by UNH Franklin Pierce School of Law. To help spread word about the show, please be sure to subscribe and comment on your favorite podcast platform, including Apple Podcasts, Google Play, and Spotify