WHAT IS SHARENTING? THE TROUBLING BEHAVIOUR BY LOVING PARENTS

– Helen Connolly, Commissioner for Children and Young People

Troubling behaviour by loving parents

‘Sharenting’ is a word now so overused and ‘punny’ that it actually undermines the important cause the term was originally coined to highlight. Sharenting – for those who don’t know – is when a parent regularly shares photos and/or stories about their child without any consideration of the impact this might have on the child’s privacy and agency, either at the time, or when they’re old enough to be on social media themselves.

The ironic thing about sharenting is that many of the most engaged, conscientious, and caring mums and dads around, have been shown to be the main culprits. A 2018 study by the London School of Economics titled ‘What do parents think, and do, about their children’s online privacy?’ revealed that three in four parents who regularly use social media, posted pictures and videos of their kids. In fact, the study went on to say that “parents who say they are concerned about privacy are more likely to share images of their children online – both with close family or friends, and with wider contacts”.

I’ve been hearing that when it comes time for kids to establish their own social media accounts (around the age of 13), they are frequently unsettled and very embarrassed to discover that they already have a significant historical digital footprint they knew nothing about. Discovery of this unknown footprint, created by the people in their lives who are supposed to have their best interests at heart, can leave many children feeling upset, humiliated, or betrayed.

Posting the obligatory first day of school snapshot quickly becomes less appealing when we consider how many strangers will view that photo with the name of the school, possibly the full name of our child, and quite likely, the geo-location of where the picture was taken. What about a photo of our child in their bathers at the beach? If we wouldn’t hand out images or information to a stranger in the checkout line at the supermarket, should we be posting it online?

Even without our social media settings switched to public, if any friend comments on or likes our post, their friends may receive access to it too, and once online, it can end up anywhere.

So before any of us posts another pic or video of our child or grandchild online, we need to stop and consider the impact it may have on that child down the line. If we can hear them objecting, we should consider that not posting it might just end up strengthening the trust that exists between us. That way, when it does come time for them to be making decisions about what they do post about themselves online, they will be able to turn to us for guidance and reassurance – and surely no number of ‘likes’, ‘shares’ or ‘comments’ could be more important than that!

Try out my practical tips for being a ‘Smartparent’ when using social media at ccyp.com.au/guides-and-fact-sheets/

If you’re a child, young person or parent who would like to get in touch with me send an email to CommissionerCYP@sa.gov.au
or visit ccyp.com.au