Most of us have heard the word “sharenting” lately, but do we really know the real meaning of that term? Well, to put it short, sharenting is when parents share or overshare anything their child does on social media sites.
Even if you’re not a “sharent” yourself, you’ve probably come across one and their endless feed of baby news, photos, and videos. And even if that looks innocent and sweet and may seem harmless, that’s not always the case.
Social media has become everyone’s favorite way to share information about their lives. From your old high school teachers to the mom you just met on the playground, keeping in touch with social media friends often means sharing pictures of your kids.
But how much sharing is too much? This article will explain some of the risks of “sharenting” and offer tips for parents who want to reduce the amount that their children are exposed on social media.
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The Risks Involved
The risks of oversharing can be scary, but understandably, most parents haven’t thought about them very much. They are just excited to share cute pregnancy announcements, baby’s first steps and birthdays.
But even if your social media shares are restricted to friends only, you can’t guarantee that the pictures (or videos) won’t be accessible to a wider audience. It’s just as easy to download and reshare a picture. Especially if you have relatives who post everything publicly (I have some of these myself).
No one likes to think about it, but children’s information can be used in identity theft, especially if information like full names, birthdates, their mother’s maiden name, and the city in which they are born are used.
Children’s social media information can also be used to target them for exploitation or bullying. A bully could use old pictures of your child to harass them, especially if these pictures could be considered embarrassing.
In the worst-case scenario, children’s photos (even innocent ones) could be saved and used by someone with a sexual motive. This is something that parents especially don’t want to think about in connection with their children, yet it is a frightening reality.
Apart from these scary situations, there are many more everyday situations where your children may not be glad that you shared so much about their lives on social media. Older kids and teens are especially sensitive to embarrassment.
How Can I Control “Sharenting?”
While some of these reasons not to share may make you feel like you need to lock up your kids’ social media presence and throw away the key, the day-to-day reality of sharing on social media means that most parents do it. Parents shouldn’t be judged for posting information about their kids on social media.
Learn to cut back on your “sharenting” by putting yourself in your kids’ shoes. Would you be mortified if your mom posted a similar picture of you? (Now that many grandparents are on Facebook, this can still happen!) If so, try to restrain yourself.
I have to admit that I personally shared information about my kids when they were younger, but now I actually think twice and try not to post anything that could potentially be embarrassing for them (especially when they reach the cringing age).
If your kids are on Facebook, they’ll probably appreciate you not tagging them in photos and posts without permission. Tagging means that all of their friends will automatically see it, and they don’t need to see pictures from their fifth birthday party unless they want them to.
Tips to Keep You from Oversharing
It is possible to share positive things about your kids without going overboard. Social media has become an important part of many people’s family lives, and rather than deleting all of your information and starting over, here are some helpful tips to keep in mind when you are sharing new posts or photos.
1. Perform the Cringe Test
As I wrote earlier, one great way to help you decide whether you should post something about your kids is whether it would embarrass them. If you’re not sure what would embarrass your children, you should ask them before you post these things.
They will appreciate the extra consideration, especially if they have gotten the stomach flu and they don’t want everyone on their parents’ news feed to know the nitty-gritty details.
2. Limit Detailed Personal Information
As much as you can, limit posting certain details about your child’s life. Some of this information, like their city of birth and their mother’s maiden name, could be used to open a credit card in their name and cause financial problems years into the future. It could also raise the risk of stalking and harassment both online and in person.
Deleting this information could help, but admittedly, once it’s out there, it’s out there, and there may not be much you can do to get it back.
3. Encourage Other Relatives To Stop Sharing
As a parent, you should have ultimate control over your child’s social media presence. Other relatives like grandparents are sometimes too eager to show off every detail about your kids.
It comes from a place of love, but one needs to see your toddler’s potty training pictures. Have a serious talk with the grandparents about the risks of oversharing, but don’t be angry or blame them. Approaching this problem diplomatically can help you to retain good relationships with them.
4. For New Parents
If you are just starting out with a new baby, there are many steps you can take to prevent his or her life from being overshared. Many new parents I know have declined to post their child’s picture or even their full name online, referring to them by their initials only. This may be a very good way to protect your child from being exploited online. In this case, parents will need to keep a watch on their relatives’ social media to make sure pictures and personal details are not reposted.
Post in Moderation
This article laid out some of the scary risks of “sharenting,” but it is not meant to make you paranoid. It is meant to give you the tools to manage your social media sharing so that your kids are protected and happy.Especially if you have older kids, let them help you decide what should be posted and what should be kept offline. This will help you protect them from bullying and keep them from resenting your use of social media.
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Written by Ivana Davies – educator turned stay-at-home mom. She’s a proud mom of a beautiful 7-year-old girl and a playful 5-year-old boy. Since she didn’t have a clue about raising kids, she had to learn it all in a hard way. Ivana managed to find so much information online and it inspired her to turn to blogging to share her experiences and struggles as a mom. Being a mom is not easy. In fact, it can sometimes be pretty isolating. Her blog, Find Your Mom Tribe, is here to help you connect with other moms, as well as to share mom hacks, information, and tools to help you on this parenting journey. You can catch up with her on Facebook and Pinterest.