I have been meaning to write about sharenting for a while because it has become increasingly relevant over the past few years and will continue to do so as we live more and more of our lives online. 

Sharenting refers to the practice of a parent to regularly use social media to communicate a lot of detailed information about their child on social networks like Instagram, Facebook, X (formerly Twitter), and WhatsApp.  This can include photos, videos, personal stories, and other updates about the child’s life. The term ‘sharenting’ was coined by Wall Street Journal writer Steven Leckart in the early 2010s and it was included in the Oxford English Dictionary in 2022. 

Let me give you some figures to understand how prevalent sharenting is:

  • According to the UK communications regulator, 56% of parents have shared information online about their children. Half say they share photos of their children at least once a month. It takes just 57.9 minutes after birth for parents to share their newborn’s first photo. 
  • Parents share an average of 300 pictures of their child online every year. The average parent will post 1,500 pictures of their child online before the age of 5. 
  • 80% of children have an online presence by the age of two but in many cases the sharing starts even before the baby is born with expectant parents sharing images of their unborn children (AVG Technologies, 2010). 

Parents share information online about their children with good intentions. They mostly want to keep their family and friends well informed while others report using social media as memory storage. Unfortunately, sharenting has a dark side that parents should be aware of.

These are the main points that you should consider before sharing information online about your child: 

Your child has a right to privacy. What content are you sharing? Sharing embarrassing, traumatic, or intimate information about your child may mean that you are breaching your child’s right to privacy. Your child may still be little and their adolescence and adulthood may seem very seem distant, but it will arrive, and they may be shocked and resent you for having shared intimate information about them. A study conducted by the University of Michigan found that 56% of parents shared (potentially) embarrassing information about their children online. 

Have you heard about digital kidnapping or baby role-play? It is when strangers steal images of your baby or child, give them a new name, and claim them as their own. They create fake families and storylines. Some of these fake accounts seem to be run by teenagers and tend to be quite harmless, however other accounts use them to create sexual or abusive storylines. Instagram’s policy is to remove those accounts as soon as they are alerted about them, but the reality is that it is still happening.

Be careful about online child predators. Any photo that you post of your child may be manipulated and end up on paedophile websites. Even the ones you think are very ‘innocent’. Be aware that not everyone is looking at a picture of your child through the same lens. According to the FBI, there are 500,000 online predators active each day and they all have multiple profiles. It is estimated that police forces find thousands of indecent images of children online every day. Your child could also fall victim of ‘sextortion’: predators manipulate photos, for example, making a photo of a child in a bathing suit appear nude. The predator then shows the photo to the child threatening to release it if the child doesn’t send them more photos of graphic nature.

You are affecting your child’s digital identity. Your child may not be able to erase the information you have posted about them. Consider that any content you post online no longer belongs to you, that information is no longer confidential, can be used by anyone and has the potential to be accessible forever. Whatever you disclose about your child online will follow them into adulthood and they may not be able to delete it even if they want to. This information may influence how others perceive your child and affect their future employment prospects or their social standing. Essentially, you are not allowing your child to narrate their life as they want. 

Sharenting may affect your child’s current and future sense of self and well-being. There is not an awful amount of research on this issue but posting content that is humiliating or embarrassing for your kids may be negative for their self-esteem and self-image. Some psychologists and educators are even considering it a form of child abuse, especially in the case of influencers who use their kids as content on social media. Part of growing up, is to understand that there are aspects of our lives that are private and others that are OK to share with others. When parents share a lot of intimate details about their child, that child’s perception of boundaries can become blurred. Growing up thinking that nothing is private may have negative consequences for your child.

 

Consider the effect that sharing private information could have on the relationship with your child. Will your child trust you if they think you may share whatever they tell you? This is what happened to Gwyneth Paltrow when her then fourteen-year-old daughter publicly criticized her for oversharing. 

Adem Ay via Unsplash

Here are ten tips to consider before posting about your kid:

  1. Familiarize yourself with the Privacy Policies of the sites where you share. For example, Facebook and Instagram reserve the right to use your photos. Always use the strictest privacy setting the platform allows.

  2. Set up notifications to alert you when your kids’ names appear in a Google search result.

  3. Curate your follower list. Ideally, you should only allow people you know and trust.

  4. If you are going to share, consider doing it anonymously.

  5. Be mindful when sharing your child’s location and ideally don’t do it. When you share their location, the risk of your child being targeted by online predators increases. 

  6. Once your child is old enough, allow them to veto and have a say in what you can and cannot post.

  7. Do not share pictures showing your child in any state of undress, with their mouths open, in their underwear or a swimsuit. Do not post photos of your child in a suggestive position, even if you think it’s cute or funny. 

  8. Consider that anything you share has the potential to go viral and affect your child and your whole family. 

  9. Be careful when posting pictures or information about other children. It may be considered a violation of their privacy unless you ask their parents for permission. 

  10. Always pause and think before you post. Ask yourself whether you would share that information with a random stranger, whether your child would be OK with it when they read it in years to come, if you are protecting their privacy, and whether it can be used by predators. 

I hope you have found this article useful. Let me finish by saying that the aim of this article is not to make you feel bad in case you usually share information about your kids. My only aim is to give you the latest research on this topic so that if you decide to post pictures of your child online, you do it safely. 

If you have any questions or comments, please get in touch at ana@recparenting.com

Much love, 

Ana and the REC Parenting Team

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