Children's Digital Assets - This Is Important News For Parents

It raises fresh questions over digital inheritance and who has the right to manage someone’s online presence and intellectual property when they die.
— Kate Connolly


The death of your child must be a parent's utmost anguish. 

A husband who loses a wife is called a widower. 
A Wife that loses a husband is called a widow. 
A child that loses a parent is called an orphan. 
There is no name for a parent who loses a child.

A name does not exist that could describe the hurt, pain and sorrow of losing your child. When it happens, it shatters a parent's soul into thousands of pieces, and each one a question. And mostly starting with why? When that death occurs by suicide those "why's" are compounded a millionfold. You would need to find those answers, and you would go to any length to know why they would have taken their one and precious life.  

In 2015 a 15-year-old Germany girl took her life. Her parents understandably want answers to the question why? Was she bullied online? Was the pain of those secret messages on her social chat pages so immense that she took her life to end the hurt? 

If you are a parent, you can understand and sympathise the need to know if the answer is in those messages. It would eat away at you every day not knowing and why and wondering if in the chat conversations you might find that sentence that could explain, guide or show you why. But if you do not know the password to your child's social media accounts, you are locked out of that world.

The judge in the case understood and sympathised. The crux of the decision he made was who owns the girl's digital assets? The parent holds rights to other possessions such as letters and diaries but what about online conversations? It was a difficult decision as it involved inheritance laws drawn up 120 years ago and secrecy laws established only five years ago. Maybe laws need to change.

Even Facebook understand and sympathise, but they won't reveal the contents, and now the Court of Appeal in Germany have ruled that the substance of these chat conversations must stay private. FaceBook say to give access to these chat conversations would expose other conversations that would have been understood to be private by those who wrote them at the time.

My deepest heartache is for the parents. To lose their child is the greatest catastrophic event in their lives. To not know the answer would drive you to go to the end of the earth to find out why. They may still fight on as both parties had the agreement in the event of defeat to take the case to a higher court. 

Who owns the rights to your child's privacy? As Kate Connolly says in The Guardian, "It raises fresh questions over digital inheritance and who has the right to manage someone’s online presence and intellectual property when they die."

Weekly Check The Password Of Your Child's Social Media

Do you know the passwords of your child's social media accounts? Maybe weekly, randomly, check if you can log on. If you can't take away their phones, take away their laptops, take away their tablets until you can.

Invasion of privacy - possibly?

It's an easier battle to have with your son or daughter than Facebook and the courts.