Expert / 9 January, 2017 / My Baba

Kids on Display: What ARE The Dangers of Sharenting?

I’ve been thinking a lot about the amount of photos I see of my friends’ children in my timeline, from baby scans to the obligatory hospital newborn snap, to days out, school plays, and family get togethers – but is it healthy to document the every day lives of children online in such a way? I know one couple that refuse to post photos of their one-year-old baby online, and am I right to think that going out of one’s way not to do so is a little over the top? We turn to American cyber safety specialist Jana Rooheart to ask her professional opinion on the craze now dubbed ‘sharenting’. Let us know your thoughts. 

There is no news that parents usually take much pride in their children and their achievements. That is the way of things from the time immemorial. Young mothers, absorbed in new experiences and new challenges, are especially prone to that sweet feeling that warms our heart when our child reaches another milestone ahead of time.

Today, having all the mobile gadgets, cameras, and internet connection, not only can we save these proud moments for years to come – we can share them with the world on the go. However, in this digital era we are living, the downsides can be unexpectedly ramified.

Sharenting is a word that describes a tendency of enthusiastic parents to overshare child photos, videos and child-centered information in general. This term refers not only to quantity but also to the quality of the posts: something that may seem too personal or too graphic for everyone to see is often referred to as sharenting as well.

On the one hand, the desire to showcase the achievements of one’s child is understandable. After all, the primary caregiver, especially when he or she is stay-at-home, whether it is a mother, a father, or a grandparent, feels somewhat isolated from the outer world, whereas social networks help them feel connected and supported, enabling to brag about the success or vent out the frustration.

According to Pew Research Center report, parents often see social networks as a source of emotional and informational support. However, without proper balance, young parents may cause inconvenience to their friends and family, and even get them into serious trouble.

You may seem insufferable to your friends

You need to understand one thing: numerous pictures of your kids eating, sleeping, being funny, etc. may be of no interest to the majority of your online friends. Before posting another picture of your little tot smeared with her meal head to toes, think twice – some of your contacts may even find it repulsive.

This does not mean that you must not share these precious and fleeting things. It is advisable, though, to be more selective when it comes to the audience. Send pictures in private messages to your family members or create a safe account in specialized social networks for young parents. These resources usually provide safer and friendlier environment for the parents and are intended to be a parenting tool and a space to celebrate parenthood and share child-centered content.

You violate your child’s right to privacy

What is meant to be a success diary can one day become a book of shame to your child – what you find adorable and sweet may be embarrassing for your grown-up kid. The widely known case of Austrian teenager that sued her parents for refusal to delete her child photos from Facebook is rather a drastic example. However, it makes us think how to approach our children’s digital footprint more mindfully. Even without nudity and potty-training highlights, the exposure to the world may be harmful to kids.

Teenagers are especially sensitive to everything that is to do with their self-image, self-esteem, and idiosyncrasy. Moreover, tiny things that family cherishes, may provoke relentless bullying and ridicule, should they become known to a wider audience: lisp, stammer, night terrors, peculiar hobbies, health issues, disorders – are you sure your children are okay with everyone knowing all this about them?

Try to put yourself in your child’s shoes – respect the privacy of a person he or she will grow up to be. Also, always distinguish between the family albums only meant for the eyes of chosen friends, and public pages of social media, available for everyone.

You are endangering your family

Parents today are more and more aware of the online dangers; they talk to their children about internet safety and predators; they use parental controls on iPhone or other devices kids own; they teach and raise awareness, etc.  What they fail to do, however, is to be sufficiently discreet in their own right, in their own virtual space.

Somehow, they think that dangers are limited to the direct contact that ill-intentioned strangers may establish with their children online. Yet there are more cunning and obscure ways of getting in touch with your child in real life, based on the information obtained from your very own seemingly innocent posts. A shot of your children playing in the yard with your house in the background may be enough to give away their location, ages, names, appearances, etc. Having all this data, one may find out the school they attend. Snapping a pile of presents from the birthday party unveils your child’s valuable possessions, potentially leading to robbery and theft.

To prevent all these worst-case scenarios, you should check if your social network profile is set on “private” (by default, they are usually public). Then make sure that your friend lists only contains people you know and trust with the private information that you post. Many people seem to be careless merely because of their humility. They think: why would anyone who does not know me be interested in my page? The answer is – for all kinds of reasons, with some of them being of the sort that would make you shudder.

The general rule of thumb here – if your treat your social profile like a private party, make sure you are in control of who is invited.

Article by Jana Rooheart. Jana is a blogger and cyber safety specialist living in Kansas City with her daughter and husband. You can contact her via Twitter or Facebook.  

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