Sharenting: The Risks of Putting your Child on Social Media

April 29, 2019
Knowing when it's right to post something on social media is one of your duties as a parent. Learn about the risks of putting your children on social media.

New technologies come with new changes in how we communicate, and they can be wonderful since they allow us to stay in touch with everyone. No matter the distance, you’ll always find a way to make it shorter. However, you should be cautious: a phenomenon called sharenting can put those you love most at risk.

Sharenting has emerged as a new way of communicating and sharing. Through pictures and posts, you’re now able to express how you feel and share your daily activities with your friends.

But a bit of reflecting never killed anyone, so you should be conscious about the boundaries you set when using social media. How much of your children’s life do you share online? Why are you doing it? Who are you sharing it with?

“We live, in fact, in a world starved for solitude, silence and privacy, and therefore starved for meditation and true friendship.” 

-C.S. Lewis-

sharenting: a father taking a photo of his baby

What’s sharenting?

Sharenting, as you might have already guessed, is the combination of the words “share” and “parenting”. It usually refers to parents who post what happens to their kids on social media. The most popular platforms to do this are Facebook and Instagram.

According to the Collins Dictionary, it’s “the habitual use of social media to share news, images, etc. of one’s children.”

It’s becoming more and more common. In fact, there hasn’t been a generation with a childhood so full of posts and pictures like today’s generation. But the fact that it’s common and widespread, doesn’t mean it isn’t controversial, because some of the consequences of overexposing minors on the Internet are extremely worrying.

There are three types of parents when it comes to sharenting:

  • Protective parents worry about privacy. It, of course, doesn’t mean that they don’t feel proud of their kids, but they’re careful when posting something about them online.
  • Proud parents like that their friends to see how wonderful their kids are, post pictures and describe everything they do on social media.
  • Irritable parents hate when people post about their children online.

The risks of sharenting

Sharenting can be harmful for several reasons, like:

  • Lack of privacy- With the digital footprint you’re creating by posting about your children, you’re taking away their privacy, in a way.
  • Cyberbullying- By oversharing, you could be exposing your life to bullies and stalkers on the internet. You’re giving access not only to your information but also your children’s.
  • Fraud- Kids can be a target for fraud since all their data is on the web.
  • Grooming- By oversharing your children’s lives, you could be giving access to potential predators.
  • Using your content for sexual reasons- Pedophiles may be using your posts as sexual content, even if you’re only posting innocent pictures.

Also, sharenting may affect your children’s emotions. When you post something about them, you’re not really asking them if they like it or not. So, besides violating an ethical principle, this could damage them in the future.

Once they grow up and become more conscious, they may not like it or even feel sad and miserable about what you’ve posted about them. Although their reaction might not always be negative, there’s a high chance they won’t like it.

Furthermore, you should know that oversharing isn’t only a danger to your children. In fact, you’re violating their right to privacy and it could backfire. Plus, constantly sharing on social media puts you at risk of getting addicted to it.

a woman taking a selfie with her baby boy

How to safely use social media

Since sharenting’s consequences can be very serious, let’s see what you can do to manage your kids’ exposure on social media.

  • Pay attention to privacy policies Each social network has a privacy policy, and it’s important that you read it carefully in order to know how to protect your kids’ privacy.
  • Learn at what age your kids can start using social media- Each platform asks users to be of a certain age in order to use them, and if your kids are very young, you might have to supervise their use. It’s important that you pay attention to the content they see and post.
  • Ask your kids opinion- Whenever possible, it’s best if your kids have the possibility of stating their opinion on the content you’re posting about them. It can be an innocent picture, but always hear what they have to say about it.
  • Don’t share pictures of them naked- This encourages cyberbullying, sexting, and grooming.
  • Ask yourself “how will my kids feel when they see this in the future?”- This might help you make better decisions when it comes to posting something.
  • Use Google alerts- Google offers to send you notifications when your child’s name appears in search engines. If you’re able to get this feature, you may find out on time if something bad or compromising happens.
  • Be careful when you share specific data- This is especially true with a location. This might make it easier for stalkers to find you.

Pros and cons of sharenting

Sometimes the situation might get out of hand; if you feel like you’re not really able to manage the number of posts you’re making and it’s becoming a problem in your life, or if you want to be more assertive and improve, you can always talk to a professional.

On the other hand, the fact that bad use of social platforms is very common doesn’t make it less harmful. Some studies suggest that 92% of kids under two years old are present on social media, and a third of them have their first photo published before their first birthday.

Many other research studies give way for you to reflect on the issue. An example of this is the very complete guide published recently (2019) by  Gaëlle Ouvrein, titled Sharenting: Parental adoration or public humiliation?”

The study exposes the reality of the matter: parents condition their kids’ identity or self-image with what they post about them. It shows that sharing information about your children may frustrate them, especially when they’re in the early teenage years. Plus, it recommends that parents ask their kids before posting anything that has to do with them.

But of course, not everything’s bad about posting on social media. Uploading a small part of your life can make you feel closer to those you love. What’s important is that you’re aware of what you’re making public.

Ask yourself: Where can I post this? What are the privacy policies of that platform? Who’s able to see my content? Am I taking my kids’ rights into account?

If you’re careful, you’ll find a balance and you won’t be a victim of the dangerous phenomenon that is oversharing your children’s lives on social media. Remember that it’s all in your hands.

  • Otero, P. (2017). Sharenting…¿la vida de los niños debe ser compartida en las redes coaiales? Archivos generales de pediatría, 115(5), 412-413. doi:http://dx.doi.org/10.5546/aap.2017.412
  • Ouvrein, O., & Karen, V. (2019). Sharenting: Parental adoration or public humilliation? A focus group study on adolescents’ experiences with sjarenting against the background of their own impression management. Children and Youth Servicces Review, 99, 319-327. doi:https://doi.org/10.1016/j.childyouth.2019.02.011