How to Avoid Sharenting: A Guide to Your Child’s Privacy Online
In the old days, you would have proudly flaunted your baby or toddler at dinner parties and barbecues. Today, many parents take to social media to share their bundle of joy with millions of people, mostly strangers, from across the planet. And it’s getting out of hand. According to the Pew Research Center, 82% of parents admit to publishing content about their kids on social media. In fact, an average 5-year-old in the UK now has 1,500 photos of them online. This is the scale of modern-day sharenting.
But what exactly is sharenting, and what is driving this behavior? Sharenting is a term that describes the practice of oversharing information about kids. Of course, pride and joy drive the sharing habits of many parents. For instance, they might post their child’s birthday photos or a video of them singing. However, peer pressure and a competitive nature might also push some to out-parent others with excessive sharing. And yes, the money earned from a viral video post or by creating a tiny celebrity influencer could be tempting, too.
Whatever the reason may be, the consequences are the same. And they are not always what you might expect. You could be igniting a spiral of trouble and distress for your child by sharing that super-cute photo or funny video with millions of strangers. Sharenting could have grave repercussions. So, taking urgent action to curb its many unforeseen outcomes is essential to protect your child.
But before we look at some essential tips to avoid sharenting, it’s important to spend a moment to reflect on its perils. Is sharenting as evil as the media makes it look? Can it really place your child at risk? Let’s dig a little deeper.
The risks of sharenting
Your exposure to social media likely began when you were an adult or a teenager. But even during the 10 odd years of online interactions, you would have seen and heard your fair share of online threats, from identity theft and financial fraud to stalking and harassment.
But when you are sharenting, your kids start their digital exposure and online data trail at a very young age. By the time they become adults, they would have amassed a significant data footprint. Every piece of information you share about them today will add to this. One day, it will shape their public image and may even affect their careers and relationships. By then, it might be too late to change, reverse, or delete the online footprint that you have helped create.
When you share a photo online with a family member or a closed group of friends, the risk of it reaching a bigger audience will always remain. On the internet, it only takes a single click to share, distort, or abuse a piece of content. Besides, what you see as adorable or funny might be viewed differently by someone with ill intent. The internet is full of cyberbullies, predators, and criminals. And the content you divulge online could place your child in serious danger. Remember, what you share today could haunt your kids for decades, and they might resent you for the rest of their lives.
Curbing the perils of sharenting
The internet is a complex environment. And there’s no telling how more complex it could become when your kids grow up. So, as a parent, you need to tread it with care and ensure you create a safe online space for your kids to enjoy.
Educating yourself is essential to make informed decisions.
Understanding the potential threats of oversharing is the first step to protecting your children from excessive online sharing. Even various content types, from photos to videos, could compromise your child’s safety. As a parent, it’s important to learn how this could happen.
Websites and forums designed for parents are excellent places to keep yourself updated on the latest threats, trends, news, and not to mention tips and advice.
Set up guidelines that will best serve your family.
Each parent’s situation is unique. Depending on your child’s age and aspirations, develop a set of rules to guide your content sharing practices. Often, the ideal option is to not share anything at all. If your kids are old enough, let them also have a say. Despite the carefree data sharing approaches adopted by the older generations, kids today are considering their data footprint with caution. So, respect their wishes.
Assess how others may perceive what you post and any possible ramifications for your child long into the future.
Opt for old-school methods of “sharing”
Sharing on social media is effortless and convenient. With one click, a video can reach 20 people, 2,000, or even millions. But the risks of sharenting are hard to ignore. So for now, it might be best to keep your kid’s life private online. Switching back to the old-school methods of sharing might provide a better alternative. For instance, limiting conversations about your child to in-person or voice and video call interactions might be a safer bet to avoid the dangers of digital information sharing.
Keep digital content safe
Set up strong security measures to protect digital content. If you’re using digital photo albums on platforms like Google, keep them password-protected. Set up all your social media accounts in private mode and avoid adding strangers to your social network. Protect accounts, devices, and files with secure passwords. And avoid using hashtags when posting content.
The truth is, there’s only a fine line between what’s considered average and excessive sharing. Some may even say it’s highly subjective. But when your sharing habits threaten your child’s safety, then you know it’s time to take a step back. If you’re like many other parents struggling to distinguish what’s acceptable and not when it comes to online sharing, then your best guide is your instinct. Coupled with a sound knowledge of the potential dangers of sharenting, your instinct as a parent could help you navigate those complex decisions.