Parents are naturally proud of their children. They want to show them off not only to the people close to them but also to strangers. They want to talk about them and show pictures of them. This is normal. However, things may get out of hand. The overabundance of sharing too much information about your children in the online world is called sharenting.
The DaddyOfFive saga, for instance, is an extreme example of how “sharenting” can go terribly wrong. This is a story of a couple who shared “pranking” videos of their children that bordered on child abuse and they ended up losing custody of two of their kids. This shows that sharenting, a combination of sharing and parenting, can go wrong when used too much. This term is a feature of modern parenting where parents overshare everything about their kids, such as photos or their activities.
A 2019 study found out that more than 80% of children have an online presence by the age of two. According to The Conversation, a network of not-for-profit media outlets that publish news stories written by academics and researchers, the average parent shares almost 1,500 images of their child before their fifth birthday. The good news is that while reports confirm that many parents share images of their children online, 56% of parents don’t. About 87% of them actively choose not to do so to protect their children’s private lives.
Why Sharenting Can Be Dangerous
Leah Plunkett, author of the book entitled “Sharenthood: Why We Should Think Before We Talk About Our Kids Online,” argues that sharenting happens any time an adult in charge of taking care of a child transmits private details about a child via digital channels. She said that while those platforms are not exploitative, this could still accelerate a child’s entry into “digital life.” Previous studies projected that nearly two-thirds of identity-fraud cases by 2030, which will affect today’s children, will have resulted from sharenting.
Sharenting can be a huge danger to a child’s privacy and security. The photos posted by their parents on social media can be used in a lot of harmful and illegal ways such as on child pornography or pedophilia sites, for kidnapping or threats, and even identity theft. Previous reports revealed that 50% of the photos that are distributed in pedophilia and child pornography networks are taken directly from posts that are uploaded to the Internet of their own free will.
In an interview by the Harvard EdCast, Plunkett shared in what ways sharenting can be dangerous and emphasized that privacy is also important to kids and teenagers. “The dangers of giving in to the idea that privacy is dead when it comes to our kids is that unlike us as adults, they have not yet had a chance to have a childhood and adolescence that is protected; childhood and adolescence where they can make mischief, even make some mistakes and grow up better for having made them by figuring out who they are, what makes them tick and how they want to be in the world,” she said.
The role of parents in sharenting raises several questions about privacy, consent, and the parent-child relationship. “It’s very rare that parents are sharing maliciously, but they haven’t considered the potential reach or longevity of what is happening with the information they’re posting,” Stacey Steinberg, a law professor at the University of Florida’s Levin College of Law, said.
Steinberg’s paper entitled “Sharenting: Children’s Privacy in the Age of Social Media” shared a story of a blogger who posted photos of her young twins while they were potty training. According to Steinberg, the mother later learned that strangers were able to access the photos, download them, alter them, and share them on a website commonly used by pedophiles.
“This mother warns other parents not to post pictures of children in any state of undress, to use Google’s search features to find any images shared online, and to reconsider their interest in mommy blogging,” she said.
Your children can also be victims of bullying. The photo you posted with a caption, relating to their physical appearance, could upset them when they get older or could cause bullying from other children. Sharenting also shapes their online reputation. Online reputation refers to what people perceive on you on social media based on your photos, shared links and comments – a record that is hard to delete.
Anything that parents shared related to their kids, although made with good intentions, could affect their future prospects. For instance, a post on your Facebook wall about an argument with them could contribute to their negative online reputation.
Digital Measures Before Posting Photos of Your Children
Dangers in social media are difficult to avoid, especially now that it is available to millions of people. One of the ways to avoid it is to imagine yourself in your child’s shoes. Are they comfortable with this? Will they be happy to know that you are sharing information about them to strangers? If no, then you need to stop posting photos of them.
It would also be helpful to take precautionary measures when posting photos of your kids online. According to Fotolog.com, a community of personal diaries from around the world, parents should make sure that the account where they will post those photos or videos is private and that the contacts or “friends” are reduced to real acquaintances. Experts have said that an account that has more than 600 friends will most likely no longer be secure.
When uploading, make sure to deactivate the location of applications and phones and avoid uploading photos with contextual information of places that your children go because it can be used for virtual kidnappings or other types of threats. This includes information that can be provided by a school uniform, a club entrance, or an identifiable street.
Parents should also be careful when choosing the photos of their kids they post online. Avoid images that may ridicule them. Something that in the eyes of adults can be nice and fun can be made fun of in the future. Children can feel humiliated. It's also a good idea to discuss it as a family once your children are old enough to understand.