The first in a 3-part series on “Sharenting”, today we find out what it is and the reasons why parents do it.
As I start to write this article, I must first confess that my current Facebook profile picture is a picture of my daughter – and in the last day or so, I may have written a post bragging about her latest accomplishments.
It seems though, that I am not the only parent who is using social networking sites to post pictures and share stories about my child. In research carried out on by the University of Michigan, it was found that 66 per cent of parents post pictures of their children and over half (56%) share news of their children’s accomplishments online.
Recent research in the UK carried out on 2,000 parents for the ‘knowthenet’ online safety campaign, also reveals that by the time a child reaches the age of 5, their photo has been shared by their parents on social media an average of 973 times!
This is a phenomena that has come to be known as “sharenting” – or “oversharenting” – the practice of sharing our children’s photos and stories online and in social media groups – and, in some cases, it appears that people are sharing too much.
Why do parents share their children’s photos and stories online?
In the early months of my daughter’s life, I used social media groups and read online blogs to find answers for a whole host of parental concerns including, for example, breastfeeding, sleep (or more likely, lack of sleep), baby illnesses and sometimes just for support on those long nights where I was awake to feed my daughter, when the rest of the world was sleeping. We also live overseas and so sharing online means that we can have our family keep in touch with how our daughter is getting on.
Many parents, like me, use the Internet to be able to connect and share anecdotes and pictures with friends and relatives. Other parents want to discuss parenting issues with other parents for support, helping them to feel like they are not alone or to get advice from more experienced parents, who have been through it all before. According to the survey, 56% of mothers and 34% of fathers went online to get advice on topics ranging from sleep and nutrition to discipline and daycare choices.
It is easy to see why parents would look for comfort in their online networks, however there is a danger that by doing so they might accidentally be putting their families at risk.
Could this simple act of connecting with your friends and family actually be a breach of your child’s right to privacy?
As parents, we are responsible for our children’s welfare – both online and offline – yet by sharing information about our children online, we could unwittingly be opening them up to potential repercussions.
Today’s generation of children are among the first to grow up surrounded by social media and the first generation to already have an online persona created for them by the time they come of age to use the Internet and Social Media sites for themselves. When we share our children’s photos and stories, we are creating a digital footprint for them that is not of their own choosing.
Until they are old enough to be allowed to use social media for themselves, parents are the guardians of their children’s information, and as such, need to make themselves aware of the potential risks – and respect their children’s right to online privacy.
Please leave a comment below.
Read on in the second part of our series on “Sharenting” about the risks of sharing your children’s photos online.