The Dilemma of Sharenting

Sharenting, or “parenting and sharing,” is a relatively new term used to describe parents using social media to share photographs, videos and information about their children. It is something you’ve done without realizing it is now a big deal. Because we are still learning about this new world of technology and computers in our pockets (and hopefully we are not growing horns).

What should you share about your child online? Have you been asking yourself that lately, as your child grows into a teen? Is this a question you should have asked yourself like 14 years ago when you posted your ultrasound on social media thus creating the first digital footprint for your child?

Did you have any idea that you were doing that?!! As you were innocently and excitedly sharing with the world your good news?

There is a new teen-to-parent talk that is happening. It is the teen—or tween–realizing that the parent has posted pics of him/her—without prior approval—for most of his/her life. This happens when say your 11-year old decides to Google him/herself. The expectation is to not find anything. Even if your child has watched you take pictures of him/her and watched you post those pictures to a social media account. Then he/she discovers that there is so much out there. And not just from you. Sport statistics collected from the league, a personal story from third grade published on a class website with the name attached.

Mind blown when that 11-year old does his/her first Google search on him/herself.

This doesn’t even include that embarrassingly cute picture you posted when she was 4.

Said an 11-year old about her Google discovery of herself:  “No matter what you do, it’s out there for people to know. Even if you’re just swimming—the rest of the world will know. My meet records are out there; now people know I’m a swimmer. (The internet) tells you where all the swim meets are, so that would probably tell my general location. It tells you my school. Part of my story online were in Spanish. Now people know I speak Spanish.”

Or this 11-year old, “My parents have always posted about me. I was basically fine with it…then I realized I was making an impression and I was an actual person online too, through her page.” Yes, identity formation is a large part of adolescent development.

Here is the alternative to that. Another 13-year old had this to say about how in fifth grade her and her friends would compete with one another about what was on the internet. “We thought it was so cool that we had pics of ourselves online. We would brag like, ‘I have this many picks of myself on the internet.’ You look yourself up, and it’s like, ‘Whoa, it’s you!’ We were all shocked when we realized we were out there. We were like, ‘Whoa, we’re real people.’…I don’t want to live in a hole and only have two pics of me online. I want to be a person who is a person. I want people to know who I am.”

Source.

(That says a lot about today’s identity formation. Does a social media presence make a person? A lot to discuss with that question.)

In five years or less we are going to have grown children approaching their parents saying, “What were you thinking of posting that? Didn’t you know what you were doing?”

Since reading this article I know I have consciously posted less pictures of my grandchildren. Even though my daughter-in-law knowingly posts them on her Facebook page so that I can see them and have them. This article enlightened me enough that I don’t want my granddaughter to have this talk with me.

This is a new dilemma in parenting world. I’m also going to make a brave prediction that this dilemma is undergoing great change. The children of the last 15 years will be paying a big price for things we never thought of when we got our new camera phones. When these sharented children become parents (which is now beginning) my prediction is all this is going to be very different.

My help to you is to offer you these questions so you can make your own best decision now. You can’t undo the past. The internet is forever, as of now. But you can be wiser. 

  • What are the reasons that I’m sharing pictures of my kids?
  • How much of those reasons are because I love my image that I am a parent to these cool kids? How much of it is because I need the dopamine shots that sharing these pictures give me?
  • What is your child learning about you as they watch you be on social media?
  • Is this a picture I want to be a part of my child’s digital footprint for all time?
  • At what age do I ask my kids permission to post any picture?
  • If my kid asks me to post nothing about him/her, will I respect that?
  • Do you need to review your school’s social media policy? Your sports teams’? Your church’s?
  • You can keep a regular check of your privacy settings but once you post something on social media, it belongs to the world. You cannot control who has access to it or how someone might use it. Remind yourself of this every time you post something.
  • Have you grabbed your smartphone before the first aid kit when your child has fallen off of the bike?

(photo credit:  Pexels.com)