‘Sharenting’ – parenting in the Facebook era
By Senior Consultant Lucinda Szczypior
As a new parent, I thought it was pretty harmless to share cute photos of my little man’s milestones on Facebook, including a video of him wearing just a nappy and learning to walk.
But is this really harmless parental sharing? Am I having a negative impact on his future career prospects, setting him up for ridicule by his mates, or even placing him in the path of a child predator? It’s unlikely, but it’s certainly something to think about in terms of the digital footprint that we are creating for our children without their consent.
It pays to bear in mind that the photos and information we share about our children, especially on social media, contributes to their digital footprint and can be used in ways we may not expect or have any control over.
A digital footprint is a record of everything a person does online, including content they upload, which can then migrate, persist and possibly resurface years later.
A 2010 study by security software company AVG revealed more than 80 per cent of children under the age of two have a digital footprint. Another study by the UK’s domain registry found that parents post close to 200 photos of their under-fives each year, translating to these children featuring in up to 1,000 photos online before they even celebrate their fifth birthday.
“Sharenting” is the term for this new phenomenon, which points to parents publicly sharing their children’s progress online. This new ‘normal’ translates to many children having a strong digital identity developed by someone else before they are even legally allowed to sign up for most social media platforms and in some instances, before they are even born.
There is an abundance of advice around ensuring we bring our children up to be aware of the dangers of posting inappropriate material online, but are we really living our own advice?
It’s certainly food for thought on an individual level about how we should manage boundaries around sharing personal information as well as how we can manage information that is shared by us, as well as information about us.
In the end it really comes back to the basics of reputation management – what image are you creating for your children that they have not approved and that is unlikely to reflect their true identity in 10 or 20 years’ time? Remember, all internet users have an online reputation, regardless of their age.
Tips to consider when it comes to protecting your children’s online reputation:
- Familiarise yourself with the privacy policies of your social media platforms and ensure your profiles are set to private
- Don’t post your child’s location or information about their routine
- Ask yourself ‘have I ensured my child’s privacy is protected’ before posting
- Set up a Google alert to let you know when your child’s name is used online
- Don’t share photos of young children in states of undress
- Think carefully about the long term impact a post or photo could have on your child’s future career and reputation
- Always ask the permission of parents or carers before posting or sharing photos online of other children.