Sharenting: Where Is The Line?

Meg Kennedy, Staff

“Sharenting,” or oversharing your child’s life on social media, has become more and more of an issue as our years online grow. We all have that family member known to share every second of their child’s lives on Facebook or Instagram, but many of the these parents are unaware of the dangers of oversharing the lives of their child. Not only does it become an issue of safety, but it can also become an issue of privacy and consent. When it comes to posting about a child online: what is too much?

Many parents, my own included, set basic limits on technology growing up in order to protect their child from the dangers of exposure to the dangerous side of the world online however the problems we faced were different from the ones children face now. While I do believe this taught me some valuable lessons on understanding the importance of what websites you are on, who you speak to, or what content you consume, it failed to fully to keep up with the ever-changing environment online. Many children apart of my generation grew up as technology was first evolving and existing online and on social media became the norm. I can trace photos and information about myself all the way back to the age of seven both on my own and my parents social media accounts. Now children as small as infants will one day be able to trace back that same information and photos. Parents exposing their children to this environment from ages that young greatly impact how they will grow up. Knowing those embarrassing photos from elementary school are open to the world is a scary thought. It is clear that as users of this type of media, there needs to be a better balance to share the important moments without oversharing the daily life of children, but how do we decide what makes the cut?

The first issue, the issue of safety, deals mostly with the child’s identity. A rising issue has become an innocent parent posts about their young child online, sharing information like their name, birthday, and other personal information, and online predators steal the child’s identity. Simple information like this is all it takes for a predator to be able to steal an identity. My biggest piece of advice would be to compare what you post about a child to what you would post about yourself. Would you feel safe knowing your birthdate, name, hometown, school, dance studio, best friend’s name, or other parts of your life were open to others you are not entirely familiar with? The internet can be a scary world even for educated adults, so why are we exposing our children to these same dangerous we sought to hide from? The New Yorker confirmed that Facebook and Google use our information in elections and as technology advances the more companies like this will have control of our personal information. Where else can our information or our child’s information be used?

Another issue that arises is how a child might feel about the post. Many questions come to mind when I think of consent and posting about a child. At what age do children understand that they may or may not want their photo online? Does the child have a say in whether or not a parent can post about their child? How much is too much? When a child asks to take it down, does the parent have to listen? It becomes a difficult to dissect because it depends on both the child and adult’s understanding of consent and safety.

It can also develop problems with a child’s identity. In terms of children who have parents interested in blogging or video blogging and grow up in the environment, it is difficult for them to understand their real identity beyond their online identity. They become associated from an extremely young age to act a certain way for a camera or for a story, but what are the long term effects? I recently heard a story about a “mommy blogger” whose child no longer wanted to be included in their posts. In this specific situation, the parent’s business is impacted by the child no longer wanting to be included. However, what some parents fail to see is that just because a child is young, does not mean they are void of consent.

It is important, especially in a world where our lives are so accessible to predators, to being open to listening to why children do not want their information (or even just an embarrassing photo) online. These posts do not go away and follow us for years after you post, so it is important to think about not only your child’s current feeling towards the post as well as their future as well. As a child who grew up in the age of technology, one of the biggest things I have learned is not every memory needs to go online. Keeping journals and scrapbooks or even files with photos can save those funny photos the same way Facebook can and can even include the child in the process of saving these photos!

The most important thing to remember is properly understanding the repercussions of every post you make online whether it includes your child or yourself. You can protect yourself and your loved ones from the threats so many of us never expected the internet to develop just by being more thoughtful and cautious with each status you post. In just five years, social media will have a whole new way of existence and the next generation will find new ways of understanding it as well, but for now it is important to protect your children and properly discuss online boundaries in a fair and understanding way.