An 18-year-old girl from Austria is taking her parents to court after repeatedly asking them to remove hundreds of embarrassing photos of her from their Facebook accounts.
According to the girl, whose name has not been released to the public, her parents have spent the past four years uploading numerous photos of her as a child while bathing and being potty trained. While the photos are perfectly normal, the girl explained to her parents that she was uncomfortable with their 700 friends being able to easily see them.
“They knew no shame and no limits,” the girl explained to Austrian newspaper Heute. “They didn’t care if I was sitting on the toilet or lying naked in the cot, every moment was photographed and made public.”
The girl’s father contends that because he took the photos of his daughter, he has the right to decide how they are disseminated on the internet. But now that the girl is 18, she’s asserting her newfound adult status to try to secure that right for herself.
The family has a court date set for this November and if a judge rules in the girl’s favor, her parents could be forced to pay their daughter for damages as well as cover the cost of her legal fees. In addition to paying out monetary restitution, the court’s decision could set a precedent for similar legal complaints submitted by children against their parents.
While this girl’s concern seems to be limited to her parents’ friends looking at her baby pictures, there are a number of parents who’ve built substantial online brands around popular photos of their children.
Take Gavin, the 5-year-old boy whose facial expressions have become one of the most popular reaction memes on the internet this year. Both his uncle, 30-year-old Vine star Nick Mastodon, and his mother, Katie, openly encourage people to use the boy’s picture for jokes, but it’s unclear just how Gavin feels about it himself.
“The only thing I worry about, really, is that he would ever resent any of us for making these videos and posting these pictures,” Mastodon said in an interview with New York. “I think that it will definitely come down to how we explain what’s happening or how it happens. I’m hoping that he thinks it’s cool.”
While the idea of being a celebrity for becoming the (literal) face of internet exasperation might not sound like the worst thing in the world, there’s a darker side to the world of parents exposing their children on social media in pursuit of fame.
More and more parents are choosing to upload photos and videos of them punishing and shaming their children to teach them “lessons.” In at least one instance, the lesson backfired, and caused a 15-year-old girl to kill herself after her father recorded a video of him cutting off her hair and uploading it to YouTube.
If the Austrian court sides with the girl suing her parents, however, it may cause other moms and dads to think twice about whether or not it’s worth uploading images of their kids to social media.