Sharenting and Privacy
Are we posting too much information about our kids online?
Posted February 4, 2020 | Reviewed by Chloe Williams
From back to school pictures to festive holiday photos, we love to capture our experiences and post them online. But is that really the best way to share our most treasured moments?
Long gone are the days of using a camcorder, instant camera, or better yet rushing to the drug store to get that roll of film developed. Those were the days that the only stranger seeing our photos was the film developer. Fast forward a few decades later, and we don’t need to wait to see our pictures. Our savvy little smartphones can easily take pictures or record video clips and store them on our cloud drives. It only takes a few seconds to upload those images to social media and wait for the “likes” and comments to come rolling in. But we aren’t just sharing our personal experiences, we are sharing our children’s too. Our overabundance of sharing too much information about our children online has a word all to itself: "sharenting.”
Sharenting is a growing concern. Social media has made connecting with others easy and fun, but it can also be a slippery slope when we start documenting our kids’ lives online. Nowadays many kids’ digital footprints begin before they take their first breath. Many new parents excitingly share ultrasound pictures and make their big reveal announcements to their followers. Their need to habitually share their kid’s exciting moments may continue throughout the child’s life.
As parents, many of us are guilty of posting something about our children online. But have we stopped to consider how our children may feel about what we are posting? Sure, we may think that they are too young to even care, but what happens if that picture or video resurfaces in the future? Don’t we owe it to them to protect their privacy, no matter their age?
When we expose our family photos, captions, and stories online, we may be sharing too much personal information. When we post on social media, we are opening the doors to our homes and virtually letting too many people enter our private lives. There are a lot of people who access social media each day. Take, for example, Instagram, which has over a billion monthly users. It is also one of the most popular platforms, with more than 50 billion photos uploaded on the site. Instagrammers post an average of 95 million photos and videos each day, according to the marketing agency Omnicore. More than 60 percent of the users visit the site daily (Pew Research Center) and leave about nearly 4.2 billion likes (Visual Communication Quarterly). Facebook, another popular social media site, has approximately 2.5 billion monthly active users with nearly 69 percent of all adults in the U.S. reportedly using Facebook. Presently, Facebook users have submitted over 2.5 trillion posts. Needless to say, between Instagram and Facebook a lot of personal material being shared and viewed online.
To top it off, we may believe that our information is safe online and that we are only sharing it with a selected group of people, however, that may not be true. By signing up for social media sites, such as Facebook, Google, Instagram, and Pinterest, we are agreeing to allow service providers to use some of our personal data. According to a survey by Common Sense Media, we aren’t reading the fine print before clicking our acknowledgment of using the service. In fact, the survey revealed that 30 percent of parents report that they don’t read the terms of service agreements. Not reading the fine print is a mistake in the making because hidden beneath all that legalese is approval for providers to use personal data including but not limited to profile pictures.
If you aren’t sure about what type of content can be shared by your social media sites then check out this site by Privacy Rights Clearinghouse to gain a better understanding of social media security.
Online privacy, both ours and our children’s’ is something we should vigilantly keep on our radar. According to Statista, as of January 2019, 57 percent of the world’s population had access to the internet. So, a lot of people are scouring the internet each day. We should stop and think about what we are posting before we hit the submit button. According to predictions by security experts at Barclays, multinational investment bank and financial services company, by the year 2030, two-thirds of identity fraud affecting youth over 18 will be the result of parents oversharing their children’s’ information online, aka sharenting. And let’s not forget that potential employers, college admissions representatives, and even financial lenders will search social media platforms to vet prospective candidates. As parents, we would not want to post anything that could have a negative impact on our kid’s future. Not to mention that our kids don’t like us sharing information about them either. In a study published in Children and Youth Services Review, teens reported disapproval of sharenting and they viewed it as embarrassing and useless. Maybe it’s time we listened to our kids and took their perspective into account before we post information about them.
Our children’s lives and experiences aren’t worth sharing with an online audience. We should treasure special moments and share them with those who have our kid’s best interest at heart. As parents, it is our responsibility to honor and protect our kids’ privacy… even if that means not posting their stories online
Thomson, T. J., & Greenwood, K. (2017). I “Like” that: Exploring the characteristics that promote social media engagement with news photographs. Visual Communication Quarterly, 24(4), 203-218. doi: 10.1080/15551393.2017.1388701
Verswijvel, K., Walrave, M., Hardies, K., & Heirman, W. (2019). Sharenting, is it a good or a bad thing? Understanding how adolescents think and feel about sharenting on social network sites. Children and Youth Services Review, 104.