Sharenting: Kids and Social Media
It’s fun (and easy) to share in the digital age, but a child’s privacy matters.
It’s no secret that parents love to share pictures of their kids on social media, and who can blame them? Their kids are really stinkin’ cute! It’s normal to want to show off your child, but parents should understand how sharing online affects their child’s safety and privacy. After all, what’s posted online is public and permanent.
As adults post about the children in their lives, they make personal information about the kids–– such as their birthdays, full names or hometowns––available to internet users, (think 4.4 million people!). This creates a digital footprint for a child long before they’re old enough to know what that means. On top of that, the footprint will only snowball as they get older and begin to use the internet themselves. Parents and caregivers should understand the pros and cons of sharing images of their children online and set sharing rules for their family to communicate with their caregivers.
What is Sharenting?
Sharenting happens when parents share about their children and parenting experiences online. On a small scale, this might look like a parent sharing photos of their little one on a Facebook page with 300 friends. On a larger scale, this could mean a mommy blogger shares the details of their child’s everyday life with millions of Instagram followers. It’s important to remember that including your children in your social media presence means that any personal information you reveal about yourself is automatically applied to them.
Pros of Sharenting
There are many positives to sharing images and stories of your children on the internet. Social media can be a way to share your kids’ milestones with people who love them and connect with a community who understands what it means to be a parent. It’s a great way to find support from other moms in your area, as well as receive and offer advice from parents far and wide. Plus, by posting updates, you’re keeping distant relatives and friends in the loop on the most important part of your life!
Cons of Sharenting
The negative aspects of sharing online range from hurting a child’s self-esteem to putting them in serious danger. As a child grows up, they may become embarrassed about what was shared online when they were younger. It’s important to take into account that a little one will be an independent young adult one day with valid thoughts and opinions. Creating a digital footprint for them without their consent could end up hurting the child later in life and even damage their relationship with the sharer.
Once posted, all of the identifying information about the child will live forever on the internet. While having a private account may make parents feel as though they’re in control of who can see their images, followers can download or take a screenshot of an image and share it elsewhere. According to the Center for Digital Ethics and Policy, “Whatever you post online through [social media] channels can be reposted at will by anyone who can see it.” Private accounts give us a false sense of security, which makes it seem like no big deal when sharing personal posts.
Sharenting can also have serious consequences for the child’s physical and emotional well-being. Digital kidnapping happens when someone uses a child’s identity to build their own credit, upload photos of the child to an adult site or pretend that the child is their own on social media. This is a terrifying but a very real risk. Even worse, sharing personal information and locations on social media can put a child at risk of actual kidnapping.
Parents should ask themselves these two questions before publishing on the internet:
1. Does this give away too much?
Images shouldn’t show children in compromising situations, and the caption shouldn’t be too identifying. Take into account the personal information you have listed on your profile as it will be linked back to the child.
2. Would I share this if it were my information?
Rule of thumb: If you would prefer this image or information wasn’t shared about you, you probably shouldn’t share it about the kids.
Ask Before Sharing
Friends, relatives and caregivers should always ask before sharing a picture of someone else’s children. If you don’t have a definitive, “Yes, it’s okay to share photos of my children” from the parents, assume they wouldn’t want it. Only the parents have the right to create a digital footprint for children. If you absolutely need to share the photo, cover the child’s face with an emoji or sticker to protect their privacy. Kristin Bell does this for her kids!
Parents: treat social media as one of your family values and decide where you fall on the sharenting spectrum. Discuss your privacy concerns with potential caregivers early on to avoid any issues. Bring it up during your nanny interviews and make your expectations super clear.
Before I share any images of the kids in my life, I ask for the parent’s approval. I’ve always said that communication is key to healthy parent-caregiver relationships, and that’s so true for dealing with social media. In the digital age, everyone has access to pretty much everything, at any time they want! While social media helps us stay connected, there are serious concerns to think about in order to keep children protected.
Remember, always have courage and be kind.
Florence Ann 💛