Photo by CJ Dayrit on Unsplash

Last week, my post concentrated on teens and their use of social media, but this week I would like to shift the focus to parents. This week the additional resources spoke to me greatly, in particular the topic of parents posting pictures online of their children, otherwise known as ‘sharenting’. As an educator, but more importantly, as a parent, there was a lot of food for thought, and material to challenge my current way of thinking. I have definitely seen my fair share of sharenting on social media, and even been a part of it. I have many social media accounts, used in a variety of ways, from personal to connecting with family to professional.

As an intro for those of you who are new to the concept, here is a quick two minute guide to the idea of sharenting, by Dr. Lisa Lazard

From Dr. Lisa Lazard

The article ‘Sharenting’: Can Parents Post Too Much About Their Kids Online? brought up some salient points. One of the things I liked about Stacey Steinberg’s approach was the fact that she focussed the conversation around individual families. Each family has to come to an agreement about what works for them. She states: “I think our kids need to be able to come of age in a way that they have control over their digital footprint,” she says. “So it’s really important that before we press ‘share’ on our digital devices, so to speak, that we really think about who they might become, who they might want to become and how can we best give them an opportunity to control this new digital identity that they’ll grow to be in charge of one day.” This point by Steinberg is so important because many of us think it might be a harmless picture, but our digital footprint can live forever, so we have to consider the fact that these photos could exist in cyberspace for a long time. We have to ask ourselves, “how will this impact my child?”

Photo by John Schnobrich on Unsplash

Another important consideration is to open up the dialogue with your kids. She states: “I actually talk to my kids before I post pictures of them, and I’m very protective of what information is out there and who the audience might be for the pictures. I don’t really think that my child would one day wake up and be surprised by it … . Now of course, that conversation is very different with a 5-year-old versus with an 8-year-old or a soon-to-be 13-year-old. But I do have that conversation regularly, and I think that parents who don’t have that conversation absolutely need to be prepared for one day, that their child may find this trail that’s been left from all the years that they have been growing up.” I could not agree with this more, especially as your child becomes older. We might have had a history of posting pictures of our children, but it is important to honour their voices and opinions on the matter. Without understanding what they want, and the young adult that they might be, it could really lead to a divide between you and them, or in extreme cases, as seen recently, to actual legal action:

18 Year Old Sues Parents for Posting Baby Pictures on Facebook

Child sues parents for posting ’embarrassing’ baby pictures on social media

Photo by Wesley Tingey on Unsplash

Another article that highlights the importance of open dialogue is Can you stop your parents sharing photos of you online? This article reinforces the fact that keeping an open dialogue with your children is important and to take their opinion into consideration before you post. The opinions of the teenagers in the article vary drastically, from those that don’t mind at all if their children post, to those that don’t want their parents to post a single picture. Even Gwyneth Paltrow is not impervious to her child’s wrath, as she is called out by her daughter for posting a picture of the two of them on Instagram. Just because we are parents does not mean we always know best, especially when it comes to social media. As I, and many others, have stated before, social media is such a new phenomena that we are literally living a social experiment. We don’t really know what the long term effects of any of what we are using will have on us as individuals, as society, and how will impact our relationships long term. Sure there are a lot of experts and researchers, but at best they have short term research and no longitudinal data.

From Dad University

I found the above piece of media from Dad University quite comical, but he made some excellent points, especially this one: “Starting kids off young with the notion that views and likes matter is not a good idea”. He goes on to explain that this builds a false sense of self and leads to a perpetual vacuum of constantly seeking likes and views, something I can definitely agree with. I also loved his list of 4 questions that you should ask yourself before posting pictures of your children:

  1. Did I get consent?
  2. Why am I posting?
  3. Will be child be upset or embarrassed about the post?
  4. Do I want this to be part of my child’s digital archive?

Photo by NeONBRAND on Unsplash

These questions are a great starting point before hitting the ‘post’ button on any social media platform. This reading has given me a lot to think about. Now that my own children are getting older and have become pre-teens, I know it is important that I dialogue with them before I post anything. I am curious to hear from other parents this week about what drives their motivation to post and do they dialogue with their kids before doing so?

5 thoughts on “Sharing Sometimes Isn’t Caring

  1. As a new parent, navigating the digital landscape is something I’m already worried about. It’s so crazy in today’s world that baby name guides now recommend that before choosing a name that parents check to see if associated domains are available, and that once you do select a name you’re supposed to immediately secure domains and email addresses associated with that name— for your unborn child! If I’m supposed to worry about that kind of branding before I even have a baby, what is the proper approach when the child is older?? And if we, as parents, feel that pressure, I can’t imagine the pressure that our children now grow up with.

    Important topics- thanks for opening the conversation!

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    1. Hi Tamara, thanks for responding to my post. That is a lot of pressure on parents who haven’t even had the baby yet, I had no idea that was the current landscape. It is almost like putting your future digital footprint ahead of the actual child itself! What a difficult situation for new parents to have to navigate. As much of the reading described, there is a lot of pressure on parents and more so on the kids themselves. I think the best we can do is to stay informed, do our research, and keep an open dialogue with our kids. As you and Aaron already know, parenting is tough and never-ending, but also the most rewarding thing!

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  2. Hi Ryan!
    I confess I had sharenting. I liked to post news, family milestones, birthdays, 1st days at the schools and trips of my daughters and the family. I have around 14 years living away from Lima, Peru and I wanted to share our life with friends and family. Some years back, I noticed that they started to dislike it so I stopped it. Now I only post a family pic if they agree. But, after coming to know about the business of Facebook with our data and becoming more aware of our digital footprints, I decided to be more jealous about my family life. I think you will like to read the following post ‘Against sharenting’ (http://childdatacitizen.com/against-sharenting/)by Veronica Barassi. She has a very interesting perspective.

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  3. Hi Lilian, I am glad that my post allowed you to be reflective about your own practices with your own family! It is definitely important to keep the lines of communication open with our kids. And thank you for the article, it is an interesting read. I like Veronica’s point about the problem with sharenting being bigger than one family, and being a societal problem. However, I don’t think we should shift the responsibility away from parents, just because it exists as a whole. If we do that, then who is responsible to change? The parents, or society? And aren’t, we as parents, part of that society, so if society must change, then we must change to change it.

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  4. Hi Ryan,

    I really appreciated your post on “Sharenting”. While I don’t have kids myself, I am now at the age where a lot of friends and family members are having kids. For many of these individuals, it seems that this has become a major parenting decision. Will I share photos and information about my children online, or none at all?

    Being an international teacher, this is something I have thought a lot about even for myself. I don’t post a lot on social media, but because I live abroad, I occasionally feel obligated to keep my family/friends up to date with my life. However, this is a choice I am choosing to make for myself. With kids, the decision becomes more difficult.

    Rosalind Wiseman recently visited my school and gave a talk to parents about raising kids in today’s world. She listed six ways to “be a good villager.” One of those ways was to stop talking about our children – “be more interesting than that”. One of the statistics she shared shocked me. I am unsure of the source, but she stated that the average parent will post 1000 photos of of their child online by the time they are two-years old. Wow!

    So, I am not sure where I stand exactly, but I agree with you…people need to start thinking before pressing the “share” button.

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