We’ve all seen them popping up on our social media feeds – those countless baby photos of our friend’s little ones reaching every milestone or the new moms in the circle posting proud breastfeeding images or pics of them bathing with their babes. Known as “sharenting” this rising trend has been formally defined as, “the habitual use of social media to share news, images, etc. of one’s children.” Although none of us can resist bragging about our children’s first tooth or sweetest birthday party, is it really safe to post pictures online for everyone to see? Also, will our kids be happy to have their personal lives splashed across social media when they’re old enough to realise?
The risk of oversharing
Celebrities are often to blame when it comes to “sharenting”. Just last year, Madonna was slammed on social media when she referred to her 15-year old son Rocco’s private parts in an Instagram post. The singer hastily uploaded a video of her son doing a backflip in a garden while wearing a pair of bright orange boxer briefs. She captioned the image, “Rocco’s preferred profile #nosausage,” which many fans found insulting and inappropriate.
In our latest December 2016 issue, we discuss new research presented at the American Academy of Paediatrics 2016 National Conference, where the study authors urge all paediatricians to increase awareness about online disclosures related to children. The researchers agree that while “sharenting” is fun and social media offers parents a sense of community and a platform to share their joys and struggles, how their online actions affect their children’s wellbeing, today and in the future, must be considered.
The truth is, no news is private these days, even with privacy settings, as shared information can be stolen or repeatedly re-shared without the parents’ knowledge, exposing the child and family to attention from paedophiles and identity thieves.
Tips for safer “sharenting” online:
- Turn off your location settings so that no one can see where you are posting from.
- Change all your passwords regularly (at least every three months).
- Set your privacy settings so that only close friends and family can see your posts.
- Avoid posting any naked images of yourself or your children, as innocent as they may seem.
To sharent or not to sharent? We asked you on Facebook, and the response was varied. Here’s what some parents had to say:
My view is to limit what I post of my daughter online. I think when she’s old enough to decide for herself, what she wants to post, then she can decide and create her own digital profile. – Jacqueline Jacks, mom of one
I really don’t post many pics of my son, especially those of him receiving awards, or every cute thing he does. For friends and family overseas, I’d rather email privately. Firstly, because I agree it needs to be his choice and secondly, because I don’t want him thinking that all his achievements need to be validated by public opinion. His own sense of pride and achievement matters more. – Michelle O’Donoghue, mom of one
I’m very protective of my children’s online presence. My feeling is that it isn’t my right to put them on show. When they’re old enough to make an informed choice, they can decide for themselves how much they want to share with the world. – Nicole Buchanan-Sparrow, mom of two
My wife and I post very little about our kids or ourselves as we are fairly private and don’t broadcast our home life. We are very weary of what we put on social media. I will definitely monitor what our kids put on social media as they grow up and explain the dangers to them as well. We all have freedom of choice, but this doesn’t free us from the consequences of our choices, so choose wisely. – Vince van Vuuren, father of two
I’m not over the top with my children’s posts on social media, but I do upload the odd picture. We have family and friends all over the world and it is such a quick and easy way to keep them in the loop. Likewise, I enjoy seeing the odd picture of friends and their growing babies, pictures which I would otherwise not have access to. It’s a very personal thing though… I know there are pros and cons! – Samantha Watermeyer, mom of two
I prefer to limit what I post about my daughter online, primarily because I feel it’s not my place to share all the details of her life and have it out there forever before she’s ever had a say in the matter. As for breastfeeding and birth photos, I believe it’s a woman’s body and her right to share whatever she wants and people can decide whether they want to scroll past, unfollow or unfriend if they don’t want to see it. However, I would limit posting things that I feel may affect my children in the long run. But if it’s my body and my profile, it’s my choice. – Justine Van Dugteren, mom of two
I avoid posting pictures of my kids on social media, and I don’t like to name them. The people who we see all the time will know about the special things they do and share in their lives already. I’d also rather take the time to tell them how much I love them instead of telling them via a bunch of followers I barely know on social media. Time is scarce with all the things we try to fit in these days. I simply don’t have the time to post countless pictures about my kids – I’d rather spend those extra minutes with them! – Roxanne Harrison, mom of three
Tammy is a wife, mom and freelance writer with 15 years’ experience in the media industry. She specialises in general lifestyle topics related to health, wellness and parenting. Tammy has a passion for fitness and the great outdoors. If she’s not running around after her daughter, you’ll find her off the beaten track, running, hiking or riding her bike. Learn more about Tammy Jacks .