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The Age of 'Sharenting' to Safeguard Children's Privacy

The Age of 'Sharenting' to Safeguard Children's Privacy

For parents navigating the digital landscape while raising children, sharing moments about our kids on social media can be enjoyable, but it also requires caution and thoughtful consideration.

Think about posing this Q to average middle school students: "Step into a circle if your friends have ever posted something embarrassing about you on social media."

Approximately half of the students would probably step forward.

However, if asked whether their parents have ever shared an embarrassing photo, divulged overly personal information, or recounted cringe-worthy stories about them online, nearly every single student would step forward. The truth is that countless children today have this childhood experience that extends beyond mere discomfort.

What is 'Sharenting' on Social Media?

"Sharenting," the act of parents sharing sensitive content about their children online, has become almost second nature. Nevertheless, children deserve and require respect for their privacy, which parents can demonstrate by closely examining their motivations and posting habits.

When Well-Intentioned Oversharing Becomes a Problem

Consider "Malaya," a high school junior, and one of many teens who have encountered the shock of discovering their parents' social media profiles during adolescence. She was unhappy, saying, "I was not happy because, of course, moms always have to post the most unflattering pictures." She immediately needed to intervene and prevent her mother from sharing so much.

For Malaya, her entire social image was at stake, as her peers teased her for playing the violin, while her mother posted videos of her orchestral performances for the world to see. Her mother likely didn't intend to embarrass her daughter; her pride in her daughter's achievements might have motivated her. However, this might also have been driven by her own need for validation and acceptance.

Reflect on your own social media feeds, particularly the posts filled with baby pictures on your child's birthday. It's hard to resist, especially when it feels like everyone is doing it. Not posting on your child's birthday might raise questions about your level of care compared to parents who share a carousel of images each year. Even celebrity parents face criticism for posting without their child's consent.

Think about questions posed on community Facebook pages, such as inquiries about social skills groups or pediatricians with specific views. While well-intentioned, these posts can divulge private information a child may prefer to keep confidential.

Understanding Motivations: What's My "Why"?

There are numerous ways to share parenting experiences, and various reasons to do so. Some parents share frequently, while others reserve posts for significant milestones. Some share vacation moments but keep everyday life private. Parents may post to create an ideal public image, while others choose to reveal life's imperfections.

A parent's need for support and community is valid, but it doesn't justify exposing a child's entire life story, especially when it involves sharing sensitive medical information or other private details. Concerns about identity theft, AI deepfakes, and other tech-related issues add to the complexity.

Parents can moderate their "sharenting" habits and reinforce their child's sense of privacy and trust by asking themselves a few key questions about their motivations:

  • Am I posting to prove my love for my children?
  • Is this post intended to assist another struggling parent?
  • Does this post serve as a necessary resource for addressing a specific concern?

When photographing, writing about, and posting about your children, always consider your motivations and explore alternative ways to achieve your goals.

Exploring Privacy-Respecting Alternatives

Parents often turn to online platforms to share challenging life experiences and help others. Instead of posting on social media about your child's multiple ACT attempts and college rejections, you could share the story privately with a friend in person, particularly if their child faces similar college challenges.

It's reasonable for parents to seek empathy, connection, and comfort through social media, especially after the recent tumultuous years. However, it's crucial to step back and explore whether there are alternative avenues for the support you need. Can you call a family member or a trusted friend? Send a voice note to your best friend expressing your concerns? Seek the guidance of a therapist or join a support group? You might also consider participating in an online parenting community that allows for anonymous posting.

By staying mindful of your motivations and desired outcomes, parents can fulfill their social media needs while respecting their children's privacy.

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