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Parental Rights in MySpace: Reconceptualizing the State's Parens Patriae Role in the Digital Age

33 Pages Posted: 12 Aug 2008  

Sheerin N. S. Haubenreich

Jones Day; George Washington University

Date Written: August 13, 2008


The law grants parents a great deal of leeway in their child-rearing decisions, including choices in the context of their children's internet use. But there is a harm about which many parents and state and federal governments are unaware: reputational harm. Children and teenagers' current internet use put them at risk of permanently harming their reputations, and there are no protective measures in place, whether educational or regulatory. They are posting personal information on the internet at an alarming rate mostly via social networking sites like and without an awareness of the present and long-term consequences, such as the ease of dissemination and the enduring nature of internet content. The risk that children's present internet activity could irreparably harm their reputations in the future as they pursue higher education, professional careers, and even personal relationships, is sufficiently weighty that the government should step in as parens patriae to combat it and protect our children's long-term freedom. To ensure our children and teenagers have the opportunity to develop their identities without the internet prematurely creating it for them, we must develop narrow regulations bolstered by education-based initiatives to protect the young from long-term consequences of their immature speech. While our current parental rights and First Amendment jurisprudence addresses most of the concerns that we have about children and teenager's internet use, reputational harm requires special, more nuanced standards.

Suggested Citation

Haubenreich, Sheerin N. S., Parental Rights in MySpace: Reconceptualizing the State's Parens Patriae Role in the Digital Age (August 13, 2008). Available at SSRN: or

Sheerin Haubenreich (Contact Author)

Jones Day ( email )

51 Louisiana Avenue NW
Washington, DC 20001
United States

George Washington University ( email )

2000 H Street NW
Washington, DC 20052
United States

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