In a digital age where sharing the minutiae of our lives on social media has become the norm, a new term emerged in June 2022 that encapsulates this phenomenon – “sharenting.” Defined by the Oxford English Dictionary, sharenting refers to parents sharing their children’s news, images, and videos online. While this practice has its merits, a growing concern arises about the implications of oversharing on children’s privacy and security.
Sharenting is not a new concept. Parents engage in it for various reasons: to proudly showcase their children’s milestones, to connect with other parents for support and advice, and even as a source of income through brand partnerships for influencers who share their family lives online. However, it raises complex questions about the line between sharing and exposing a child’s life on the internet.
For many parents, the decision of what, where, and how much to share presents a dilemma. They recognize the potential risks sharenting may pose to their children’s privacy, yet they find solace and connection within the online parenting community. External pressures also play a significant role in encouraging parents to embrace sharenting, with family, friends, schools, media, and big brands nudging them to share their children’s lives online.
Although more research is required to fully understand the impact of sharenting on children and their privacy, some risks are already apparent. Instances of children’s photos becoming targets for online predators have led some parents to reconsider their sharing habits. Researchers have also demonstrated the ease with which third parties can obtain children’s information from parents’ social media posts, potentially leading to identity fraud risks.
Moreover, social media platforms often collect and share user information, making sharented data available to other companies that monetize it for targeted marketing purposes. This raises concerns about children’s privacy and the creation of detailed profiles based on their interests and likes.
To address these concerns, parents can take steps to make their social media sharing more secure. Disabling geotagging on smartphone camera apps can prevent location data from being attached to photos. Reviewing privacy settings and restricting post visibility is another essential measure. For instance, on Instagram, setting an account to private ensures that information is only accessible to approved followers. Alternatively, families can consider using private social networks designed for sharing within a select group of people.
Sharenting isn’t limited to parents alone; family members, friends, and schools also contribute to the sharing of children’s images and information. It’s advisable for new parents to have conversations with their close circle about how their child’s information will be shared online to prevent conflicts in the future.
Furthermore, it’s crucial for parents to think about the long-term implications of their posts. The digital identity created for a child through sharenting will persist throughout their life. As children grow into teenagers, they may become increasingly concerned about their privacy and how their online portrayal affects their relationships and friendships. Parents should refrain from sharing over-revealing or private content, as well as potentially embarrassing or sensitive moments.
Research into the opinions of young people regarding sharenting reveals a mixed bag of reactions. Some view it positively when portrayed positively and as a means to connect with extended family. Others, however, express embarrassment and anxiety and believe that parents should seek their permission before posting. As children mature, engaging in open conversations with them about their preferences regarding online sharing can prevent misunderstandings and conflicts.
To navigate the complex world of sharenting responsibly, parents can adopt the NSPCC’s family online agreement, which encourages parents and children to develop a strategy for online sharing from an early age. By doing so, families can strike a balance between cherishing the digital memories of their children and safeguarding their privacy in an increasingly interconnected world.