Sharing Sometimes Isn’t Caring

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?

Open Dialogue is the Key

Sharon McCutcheon

There is much to write about when it comes to the plethora of reading this week.  However, there is one topic that really resonates with me, that I want to expand on.  The reading Children in a Digital World points out the fact that youth, aged 15-24, are the most connected age group in the world.  This is not surprising at all, as these Digital Natives, have grown up constantly connected. The report also spoke to the phenomena of children being left alone with digital devices in their bedrooms, even overnight. The report states: “Smartphones are fuelling a ‘bedroom culture’, with online access for many children becoming more personal, more private and less supervised”. It still surprises me that many children are left alone in their rooms with digital devices.

Boudewijn Huysmans

This infographic from Common Sense Media on Teen Social Media Experiences had some statistics to further my point.  57% of teens stated they were distracted by a mobile device when they should be doing homework, and 29% said that they have been woken up by their smartphone.  When we look at the full report from Common Sense Media on Teen Social Media Experiences it contains some other powerful statistics, 37% of teens stated they were on the mobile devices when they were supposed to be doing homework, and 26% stated that their devices impeded their sleep.

Taken from Common Sense Media

We can’t assume that teens are going to make good decisions around having screens in their bedrooms, and making positive assumptions around this can be dangerous. Like any other life skill that we work with teens on, this is something that needs to be addressed with our kids and revisited frequently.  The challenge for many parents and teachers alike, is that we grew up with a totally different experience and thus have nothing to fall back on. It is really important that we read research and keep ourselves informed. Here are a couple of great resources to start the conversation:

Should bedrooms be No Phone Zones for Teens

Teenagers’ sleep quality and mental health at risk over late-night mobile phone use.

I recently was passed this article from a friend that I think really drove home the point as to why teens need to check their phone in at night, entitled “Our Daughter’s Nightly Struggle”. Beyond the lack of sleep, this article points out to other pressures are kids might be dealing with that we don’t know about.

We know our kids are more wired than ever before. We also know that being connected is highly important to them as individuals, and to their success in social circles and relationships.  As adults we have a responsibility to teens to guide them through making smart decisions around their use of tech. We need to open up the dialogue.