Sharenting: Protecting Children’s Privacy When Posting Online

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30 May 2023 - Sharing precious moments of our personal lives online is part of modern life. Digital sharing is an easy way for us to connect with loved ones and showcase a part of ourselves to those who follow us. For families, it’s a great way to document children's milestones, special events, holidays and celebrations or just sweet everyday moments. However, with increasingly personal posts becoming the norm, the rise of excessive sharing of children's personal information, photos and videos on social media by ‘mommy bloggers’, ‘momfluencers’ and regular parents has given rise to the term: sharenting. While posting a cute birthday snap of your child may seem innocent enough, sharenting poses significant children’s privacy and cyber security risks.

If you’re concerned or unsure about how to share safely online, don’t worry, responsible sharenting is possible! In this blog post, we will clarify the concept of sharenting, explore the potential dangers, explain how it could have an impact on children’s privacy and security, and provide steps that you can take to protect your children online and share content responsibly. 

What Exactly is Sharenting?

Sharenting is a term created to describe the excessive sharing of children’s personal information, images and videos on social media platforms.

This can include simple day-to-day captures of everyday life from eating breakfast to doing a silly dance or special moments like school graduations or birthdays. Oversharing has reached the point that it is quite common for parents to share intimate moments online, such as a child having a tantrum, crying, bathing etc. 

Although oversharing may seem obviously irresponsible to some, the motivation behind the excessive sharing of intimate details of children’s lives is often very innocently done with the intention of connection, showcasing pride and love, and in a deeper sense has been suggested by research to be associated with a mix of parent self-identification with children, modern parenting pressures and constant access to social media. Whatever the parents' intention, it is crucial to understand the potential risks and consequences that come with this level of digital sharing.

Why is Sharenting Dangerous?

There are many reasons to be mindful when sharing posts of your children online. Serious threats include identity theft and online predators that can use personal information for cyberbullying, stalking, ransomeware or even abduction. On a personal and emotional level, sharing content of children without their consent creates a situation where they are being represented and documented in a way that they have no control over and may grow up to feel embarrassed or resentful of.

What are the security threats associated with sharenting?

Sharenting introduces significant security risks, including exposure to online predators and compromising children's data privacy. By sharing intimate details and photos, parents inadvertently provide potential predators with information that can be used to manipulate or harm their children. Data privacy concerns also come into question when personal information is shared online. This information can be exploited by advertisers, data brokers, and other malicious entities for targeted marketing, identity theft, or unauthorised surveillance.

When every detail from birth announcement to birthday party is shared online, it becomes very easy for online criminals to gather every detail from full name, birth date and family details to exact locations from a parent's timeline. For example, a seemingly innocent ‘first day of school’ picture reveals the location and name of the school they attend, while a birthday update could contain information on a child’s birth date and name.

The Impact of Sharenting on Children's Privacy

Apart from the real dangers of cyber and personal security, Sharenting can also have a long-term effect on children’s privacy. Online sharing by parents, especially at younger ages is often done without consent. As children grow older, they may not be pleased to find their childhood intimately detailed and documented online. A digital history that they have no control over can lead to social stigma, embarrassment and in worse-case scenarios potential damage to their personal and professional lives in the future. Parents who overshare are also at risk of straining their relationship and losing trust with their children who may feel as they age, that their parents prioritised social media over the child’s right to privacy

What Can You Do to Protect Yourself from These Threats?

As parents, it is essential to balance sharing and protecting your children's privacy. If you feel you may have overshared in the past, don’t be too hard on yourself, the beauty of social media is that you are in control. Deleting inappropriate content, editing captions, changing settings or moving forward with better sharing practices may be all you need to feel at ease.  Here are some guidelines and security measures you can try:

  • Ask yourself WHY? 

Before sharing a picture, post or video including your child, reflect on your motivations for doing so and ask yourself why you want to share the specific information or image.  Think about how your child could feel in the future about the content shared. Could they potentially feel embarressed? Consider the potential impact it may have on your child's privacy and future and adapt your post accordingly.

  • Be mindful of WHAT you share

Be careful when it comes to the details you share. Avoid posting in real-time with location tags that will allow other people to locate you or your child. Leave out identifying information like full names, addresses, locations and names of schools, uniform pictures, home street names or specific areas and birth dates. An easy way to get around this is to use initials or nicknames when referring to your child online and post after you have left the location.

  • Get permission

Consent is important when sharing anything online. Whether it be your child or someone else's, it is key to get permission from the child and their parents before sharing images or videos online. Be mindful that when other people's children appear in photographs that your child is happy to share, they may prefer not to be included. It is always safer to ask before posting. Try including your child in the decision-making process, this is a great way to get their input and consent as well as teach them healthy sharing habits for when they are old enough to use social media themselves. 

  • Use privacy settings

As social media platforms face pressure to make their platforms safer to use, a wider variety of settings have become available. Each platform is different, so take the time to familiarise yourself with settings and updates to protect yourself and your children. From adjusting the access of your profile to private to limited sharing to trusted circles, there are many ways to share specific content with only close family and friends.

  • Online privacy education

Ultimately it is up to you to stay informed and to pass this information on to your children. Read up and research developments in online safety and install and update software designed to protect you and your family. Leading by example is a great way to ensure your children are equipped with the know-how to navigate the internet and social media platforms safely and responsibly.

Sharenting can carry serious implications for children’s privacy and online security. While it can seem daunting, it is possible to use social media to document and celebrate our children in a safe manner by practising safe sharing guidelines and implementing security measures to prevent damage. It is an adult's responsibility to practice parental control over online activities and to guide and teach children about personal privacy protection. With thoughtful consideration and respect, we can safeguard our children's privacy in the ever-evolving digital landscape.