It’s become quite the norm for people to share every update and photo of their lives on social media. I can’t remember the last time I scrolled through my news feed, without seeing a friend posting about their child’s latest achievement.
It has become so common, the trend is now known in the online space as ‘Sharenting.’ While this can be considered adorable, sharenting has created a debate around a child’s privacy and security.
What is it?
When parents are posting the odd picture online of their child, it doesn’t come under the sharenting umbrella. But when family members repeatedly share sensitive information about their children on social media (normally without understanding the possible or future consequences), it is then derided as sharenting.
It’s common for people to believe that sharing children’s moments online allows them to connect with family and friends. They think they are creating a digital version of a photo album but in reality, they are creating a digital footprint for their child that anybody could have access to.
Unwelcomed Online attention
When parents share pictures and updates about their children online, it can attract commentators who can use this information to groom children.
Children can become targets of cyberbullying when their personal information is shared online, making them vulnerable to harassment, intimidation, and online abuse.
Embarrassment and Humiliation
Children may feel embarrassed and humiliated when their private moments, such as toilet training, tantrums, or accidents, are shared on social media platforms, especially as they grow into adults themselves.
Sharenting can also put children at risk of identity theft, where their personal information can be stolen and used for fraudulent activities.
Lack of Control
Children may feel that they have no control over their personal information and how it is shared online, leading to a lack of autonomy and privacy.
Specific Laws for sharenting
France is one of the only countries that is proposing a sharenting law proposal that protects the privacy of children on social media.
The proposal was introduced in 2020 and will apply to children under the age of 13. It aims to stop parents from sharing images of their children on social media, without the child’s consent. Parents would need to obtain their child’s permission before posting anything personal about them. If the law passes, a breach of the act could result in a fine of up to €45,000 or up to a year in prison.
The proposal has been met with some critics arguing that it is overly restrictive and could be difficult to enforce. Another big issue is that children struggle to give informed consent. They don’t understand the difference between sending a text to a grandparent and putting something on social media.
However, the supporters argue that it is necessary to protect children’s privacy and prevent them from being exploited or bullied online. There needs to be a clear line around consent to ensure children know exactly what they are being asked.
What Should Parents Do?
Before sharing anything about your child online, ask them first. Children have the same right to privacy as everyone else so they should get to decide whether they want their information shared online.
Don’t share everything and anything. Consider the information you are putting online and avoid personal information such as their full name, date of birth, home address, or school. That should only be shared with a restricted group of trusted people.
Use privacy settings on social media platforms to limit who has access to your posts. Make sure to check the default settings and adjust them accordingly.
Be mindful of tagging your children on social media because it can make it easier for strangers to access their information.
Practice what you preach. In the digital age we now live in, parents constantly worry about their children’s social media usage and remind them about their digital footprint growing up. Teach your kids by role-modeling safe online behaviors that respect boundaries and other people’s feelings.
Create a social media policy for your family. Discuss the type of information that everyone wants online, the types of platforms that can be used, and the appropriate way to share information.
Help! I’m a “Sharenter“
Sharenting is a growing trend among a generation of tech-savvy parents, and while it may seem harmless, it poses various concerns for children’s privacy and security.
Parents should be mindful of what information they share online and how it can impact their children now, or in the future.
By taking appropriate measures to protect their children’s privacy and security, parents can ensure that their children have a safe and positive online experience
If you are a sharenter and you’d like advice on how to celebrate your family safely, check out our tips at – https://netsafe.org.nz/sharenting/