Can little Johnny have a Facebook account? This depends on how young Little Johnny is... and which social media platform he is on. Many parents do not know the actual terms of use for the various platforms and it would be a good idea for them to acquaint themselves with them. For example, Facebook users are not allowed to be under the age of 13, meaning that children cannot have their own account until they are a teenager and should not be using the platform themselves until then.

Parents are factually the guardians of their children’s images online. Obviously very young children are not in a position to make an informed decision or give consent regarding the type of image that their parents portray of them, and it is very important for parents to be respectful of their children’s vulnerabilities. There are various guidelines available to parents about the responsible use of social media in relation to children. Incidentally (and this is not a fact that is known by many) in South Africa it is not legal to post pictures of naked children in a public platform. Besides being dangerous in terms of attracting online predators, it may also a violation of a child’s dignity as they cannot give informed consent to have their “cute” (and yet utterly inappropriate) image on a social media platform.

Kids today are regarded as “digital natives”: they grew up with the Web 2.0, social media, digital technology and content. They will understand this digital world far better than their parents do, however they need to be protected from it until they are old enough to understand its power.