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“Sharenting” – Should We Make it Stop?
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“Sharenting” – it’s not a word I had ever heard before today. But I’m glad I heard it, because now I know it’s a thing.
Back track a bit to how I came across this word… I recently put a post on Instagram to see what topics people would be interested in hearing about from our parenting contributors on “Who’s The Expert”.
Since most of our posts focus around child behaviour I was a little surprised when the question “Why are we flooding our pages with kid pics?” came up – essentially opening up the topic of parents sharing their pictures of children on social media.
It’s not something I’d thought that hard about in the past (although, I have had people ask me before whether I would include pictures of my children, one day, when we have them, on Oh Beehave!) and I guess I don’t really know the answer to that.
Does anyone really know what they would do in any given situation until they are in it?
Anyway, it definitely got me thinking about what kind of impact parents sharing pictures of their children on social media has on them (if any).
It is a bit of a tricky area to study, because although social media has been around for over 10 years now, it started becoming more popular in the mid-2000’s and then slowly progressed to the way we experience it today, as a medium for sharing pictures of what we’re doing “right now” with an explanation to follow.
Which means, parents who share pictures of their children in this format have not had the opportunity to do so for all that long, making it difficult to study the long-term effects.
It does seem that parents share a lot of pictures of their children on social media these days (some studies in Europe suggest over 70% of parents share pictures of their kids online) and according to the ABC news, some countries actually go so far as to warn parents against sharing their pictures on social media due to possible legal ramifications.
There are some concerns about the consent of the child to have their picture shown on-line, and for how long that picture and information might be available in the public domain, otherwise known as the child’s “digital identity” and who might access it in the future (e.g. should their parents worry about their future employer checking out their facebook page).
I can understand how that would be a worry, but I also think that on the other hand, trends come and go, and I highly doubt that an employer is going to care if their prospective employee had a tantrum at the shops once when they were two. I think it is even less likely that they are going to chase down their old My Space account (because… like My Space, once it’s no longer relevant, it’s no longer relevant and as someone who has gone through the recruitment process many times, seriously, no employer has time for that!)
I think it is also important to note, that one study found over 60% of parents stated that they share positive or good news story about their children on social media, and when those parents social media accounts were tracked for 3 months, they found that the parents actually mainly shared posts about activities they did with the children, or celebration of special occasions (there was no mention of negative remarks made about their children across the 94 parents tracked for this study!)
Although I can understand why there are some concerns about “sharenting” and I do agree that we really don’t know what might happen with the information and photos that are shared in the future, I would like to offer a slightly different perspective on parents sharing images of their children too.
On a positive note, I think the exposure to social media from such an early age gives parents an opportunity to teach their children about appropriate use of social media, potential risks involved and the rewards associated with connecting with family and friends online.
If parents involve their children in deciding what the post, it also helps give the child a say in what they feel comfortable posting online themselves (as a side issue it can also be an opportunity to learn more about consent – as they are, in essence, agreeing to what they see posted about themselves online) and essentially creates a “safe” environment for learning about social media.
I also think, historically, it is a relatively normal practice for parents to “share” with others what is going on with their children. I’m not talking about social media, I mean, in general. I think parents have always shared stories, experiences, photos, achievements and challenges associated with their children. I just think the medium in which they do that is what has changed.
Lastly, it’s important to consider what the kids think about their parents’ social media sharing. One study surveyed children aged between 10 and 17, asking them what they thought about their parents sharing photos and information about them on social media. Most children indicated they were happy for their parents to post positive stories, happy family activities or celebration of their achievements on social media, however, they also indicated that their parents should ask for their permission before posting photos of them.
Interestingly, the parents in the study were also surveyed, and agreed that they should ask their children for permission before posting, but also indicated that they don’t always check with their children before posting photos.
The children in this study specifically indicated that they did not agree with their parents sharing posts of them that they would consider embarrassing (some examples included: when they are in trouble for something, pictures of them that are physically revealing – such as baby bath photos or photos at the pool, anything related to their personal relationships or dating and pictures where they don’t like their physical appearance).
These findings are interesting, and it seems to me that children aren’t expecting anything outrageous when it comes to their parents’ social media sharing of them… pretty much just a picture of themselves that they view as flattering and permission for it to be posted (which I think is pretty reasonable and in line with what most people would expect??)
Personally, I’m grateful of my friends and family who do share pictures of their children on social media. Because we don’t get to see each other all the time, it means I have the benefit of being part of their lives without physically being close by.
However, since I’m not a parent myself and I really don’t know what I’ll do when it comes to social media sharing. So, I asked our parent contributors to share their thoughts on the following questions:
Last year, I deleted my Instagram account.
I was becoming increasingly uncomfortable that my children seemed to be on “display,” and their images possibly taken without my permission and used for nefarious purposes. I read article after article about Instagram accounts devoted to sexualizing children, and it freaked me out.
I also stopped documenting every single moment of my children’s lives, and only shared certain photos on Facebook, and only to Facebook friends.
I don’t share photos of my children in any state of nudity, even if they are in the pool (though I used to), or even if they’re babies in diapers (see aforementioned freaks)., I don’t share photos of my children in their school or classrooms, or in any identifying school uniforms or locations. My privacy settings on Facebook are at its highest. I don’t accept friend requests from people I don’t know.
Part of the reason I stopped blogging in 2015 was that I was becoming increasingly uncomfortable with exposing every part of my family’s lives.
With regards to other people sharing my kids’ photos on social media – unless I specifically gave permission, it’s an absolute NO.
I don’t think that my previous and current sharing of their photos will have a negative impact on them as I’ve been so vigilant with how I go about it. I’m probably one of those rare parents who doesn’t share photos of my children ALLTHETIME (and I have a lot of photos with four kids).
Alison has also written an article on this topic before for The Washington Post. It’s really good, so if you get the chance, make sure you check it out!
I am always a bit skeptical about sharing pictures or too much information about my child on social media, because it’s a sad fact but a fact nonetheless that it is a dangerous world out there.
I do post pictures on apps like whatsapp which are not public, but refrain from doing so on Facebook/Twitter.
I don’t even show my son’s face on my blog, though I know people would love to see more pictures of him and our family life (being a parenting blog) – but better safe than sorry!
Regarding it having an impact on them – I guess that depends on child to child. Some might grow up to dislike having had their childhood documented and made public; whereas others might think it to be pretty cool.
But I would refrain from posting/ writing about anything that could / would embarrass my son when he’s older.
So, to wrap up, there’s lots of different things to consider when it comes to parents sharing pictures of their children on social media (and plenty of different approaches that can be taken too!)
We would love to hear your thoughts on whether you share pictures of your children on social media, and how you feel about it too!
Let us know in the comments below (if you have a website, feel free to include the link) 😊
If you have a topic you would like us to include, a tip you want to share, or you would like to feature as a contributor on “Who’s The Expert” get in touch (let us know if you would like to receive email alerts!) or join our facebook group!
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