My name is Michelle and I am addicted to celebrity gossip. Okay, that’s a slight exaggeration. But I do read People magazine on a regular basis, and I refuse to believe any information that I did not read on I’m exactly the type of celebrity-crazed lunatic that makes the planet dumber, but I can’t help it.

In spite of this, I do make an exception when it comes to the children of celebrities. The scrutiny young people receive from their peers can be disturbingly cruel. In fact, I am confident that if Dante had been a teenager living in the 21st century, an army of denim-mini-skirt-clad middle school girls would have been one of the circles of hell. But I digress. The point is that dealing with the cruel judgment of peers is awful all on its own, and even worse when you add the blogosphere into the mix.

Judgments, sadly, are what the daughters of Spanish Prime Minister José Luis Rodríguez Zapatero were recently forced to deal with. Laura, 16, and Alba, 13, with the help of Spanish laws, had until recently managed to remain out of the public eye despite being the prime minister’s daughters. In Spain, it’s against the law for any media outlets to publish photographs of the girls without the permission of their parents. This had allowed the girls to maintain the privacy that children should rightly have. But when a photograph of the girls with their parents and Barack and Michelle Obama was put on the White House flickr page, Laura and Alba were thrust into the spotlight. The photo was promptly taken off the website, but the Internet is well-known for keeping things from ever going away (sorry, Kanye). In addition to the presence of the photo online, several Spanish newspapers, contrary to requests of the Spanish government, decided to place the photo on the front page of their papers. For the first time in their lives, the girl’s faces were all over newspapers and the Internet — and their choices of hairstyle, makeup and clothing have been extensively ridiculed by countless websites.

Why is something that is so taboo in Spain no big issue in the United States? How can there be any debate over protecting the privacy of children? I don’t have a good answer for this question, because there is no good answer. The fact that pictures of the children of public figures are fair game to anyone with a camera is clearly wrong. These children did not request to be the offspring of celebrities or politicians, and they should not have to request that their privacy be protected — that should be a given.

A Google Image search of “Malia Obama” turns up pictures of her as she is being dropped off at school. Paparazzi camp outside of celebrities homes after their children are born in hopes of procuring the first photographs of the offspring, which is hugely invasive. Photographers also follow celebrities to parks, toy stores and other places where a great number of non-famous children are present. Perhaps having the bodyguard equivalent of Andre the Giant follow celebrity children around every step would not be as necessary if there were laws in place that adequately protected the privacy of these children.

We all have awkward phases, but most individuals can avoid having these phases broadcast to the entire web-surfing world. Just because a person’s parent is a diplomat, movie star, singer, television personality or reality television star does not mean these young people should lack basic rights to privacy. This is truly an issue of common sense — until an individual reaches the age of 18, privacy laws should keep them safe.

Michelle Dewitt is an LSA sophomore.

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