Sharenting: Why You Should Stop Posting Photos of Your Kid
In the digital age, it's all too easy to share moments of our lives online. We share photos of our vacations, our meals, our pets, and yes, our kids. This phenomenon, known as "sharenting," has grown rapidly with the rise of social media. But, is it harmless? In this post, we discuss the potential risks of sharenting.
What is Sharenting?
Sharenting, a term that combines "sharing" and "parenting," refers to parents (over)sharing details about their kids’ lives on social media platforms. This may range from sharing cute photos or funny anecdotes, to posting more intimate aspects of their kids’ lives, including personal or embarrassing moments.
The Rise of Sharenting
TIME Magazine reported that 92% of parents start posting photos of their kids online before they are 2 years old. It gets crazier: a survey by Nominet revealed that an average kid has 1,000 photos of them posted online by the time they turn…5!
Have you posted photos or other information about your kid on social media? Let’s see why this may be problematic and discover how you can find a balance.
The Risks of Sharenting
Exploitation and Safety
The sheer volume of personal data about kids available online provides an alarming insight into the scale and potential consequences of sharenting. This wealth of information can be manipulated by individuals with harmful intentions, making kids vulnerable to identity theft.
Another concern that's emerging in recent years is the phenomenon of 'digital kidnapping'. This is where strangers steal photos of kids shared online, repost them on their own social media profiles, and claim the kids as their own. Even more concerning, an Australian newspaper reported that over 50% of images shared on pedophile sites were innocently uploaded on social media by parents, highlighting the extreme risk and potential exploitation associated with sharenting.
Privacy and Consent
One of the primary concerns of sharenting is the issue of consent. Young kids, especially those who are infants or toddlers, are not capable of providing informed consent for their images or personal stories to be shared online.
This lack of consent becomes increasingly worrying with the rise of facial recognition technology, which makes it easy for strangers to link photos to real identities. For instance, a harmless photo of a kid in their school uniform can reveal the kid’s location.
The internet is written in ink, not pencil. Even if photos or posts are deleted, the digital footprint can often remain and be easily retrieved. Every post about a kid adds to their online footprint, a trail of digital data that forms their online identity and which they may not have consented to.
Imagine the potential consequences if an employer or college admissions officer stumbles upon an embarrassing childhood photo or a sensitive personal story that was shared without the kid’s consent. It might not only be uncomfortable for the individual involved but could also impact their professional or academic opportunities. Your kid’s digital footprint, left unchecked, can follow them into adulthood, turning past moments into current liabilities.
Embarrassment and Emotional Harm
While it might seem harmless to share an amusing anecdote or a cute but potentially embarrassing photo of your kid online, these posts could have long-lasting effects on your kid’s emotional well-being. As a kid grows older, they may feel mortified or uncomfortable knowing that some of their most private moments are freely available for strangers to view.
Past posts can become a source of embarrassment or even potential harm for your kid in the future. Oversharing can inadvertently harm your kid’s privacy and expose them to potential cyberbullying. In a study by the University of Michigan, 42% of teens felt that their parents shared too much about them online, impacting their personal and social lives negatively.
Many teens feel that their parents share too much about them online (Source: Shutterstock)
8 Tips for Responsible Sharenting
Despite the risks associated with sharenting, it's not all doom and gloom. There are ways parents can share aspects of their kids' lives online in a safer and more respectful manner. Here are some practical ways to enjoy the benefits of sharing your parenting moments without risking your kid’s digital safety and privacy:
1. Understand why you're sharing: Before you post anything about your kid, ask yourself why you're sharing it. Remember, it's your kid’s information, not yours. You should have a good reason before sending content out into the world.
2. Ask for consent: Start the dialogue about digital consent early. As your kid grows older, ask them if they are comfortable with you sharing their photos or stories online. This not only respects their right to privacy, but it also helps them learn about consent and digital citizenship from an early age.
3. Review your privacy settings: Check and regularly update the privacy settings on your social media accounts to ensure only people you trust can see your posts.
4. Limit personal information: Avoid sharing details that could be used to identify your kid or their location, such as school names, birthdays, or full names.
5. Consider your kid's feelings: Would your kid be embarrassed by what you're about to share, now or in the future? It's one thing to tell an embarrassing story to a family member or close friend, and it's another thing entirely to broadcast that information to the world.
6. Think about the future: Ask yourself if there's anyone who shouldn't see this about your kid, now or at any point in the future. If what you're thinking of posting could come back to harm your kid in any way, don't share it. Think about how it might affect your kid’s digital footprint and future opportunities.
7. Quality over quantity: Instead of posting everything about your kid’s life, consider sharing only significant moments or milestones. This helps to limit their digital footprint.
8. Set up a closed group: If you're keen on sharing moments with loved ones, consider setting up a closed group or a private chat where you can share pictures and stories in a safer, more controlled environment. Instagram, for example, offers a “close friends” feature to only share stories with your - you guessed it - close friends.
While sharenting can be a fun way to share your kid’s milestones and achievements with friends and family, parents should aim to strike a healthy balance. By keeping the above points in mind, parents can ensure they're not only respecting their kid’s privacy but also protecting them from potential harm.
As parents, it's our job to teach our kids about the importance of privacy, consent, and online safety. These are essential life skills in this digital age. Therefore, it's only right that we start by setting a good example in our own online behaviors. After all, parenting isn't just about sharing—it's about caring too.