I am a part of an online moms group where one of the mothers shared her concern on how her pre-teenager was constantly bullied by his three-four friends in the school and asked for a solution to the situation. She received almost 18-20 comments where parents advised her. She did all this in good faith; one can say an innocent plea for help. But while answering to people’s queries in the “comment box”, she also revealed the name of school, name of the bullies and even mentioned her son’s name. She further received 50-60 comments where the parents ,other than the advice wrote sympathies for her son, said nasty things about the school and bullies; all addressing by their real name. The whole situation left me wondering if the mother has done the right thing by telling the names of the parties involved. Hasn’t she revealed too much? Dint she think how her son will feel, perhaps humiliated or angry, when after a few years he gets to know that his mother has shared such sensitive information with everyone in the world.
Welcome to the world of sharenting. In simple terms it can be defined as a practice where parents share lots of information about their child on social media. It has been stated that The Wall Street Journal created the term, where they called it “oversharenting”, a combination of “over-sharing” and “parenting”. Right from the time a child is born or even before it when he is in his mother’s tummy, scanned images of ultrasound, photographs of newborn baby, his first step, first meal, first birthday, first day of school; every “cute” picture find its way to various online platform, thus making the parents bask in the glory when they receive umpteen “likes’ and “comments”.
Being among the early embracers of technology and slowly getting addicted to the world of social media, it’s mostly the Millennial Generation (born 1980 to about 2000) who leaves the trail of their kids growing-up years on big websites like Facebook, YouTube, Twitter, Instagram. When a photograph of a sick baby posted by his parent with hashtag(#)feeling sad or a picture of a toddler who is playing in his vomit with hash sign (#) feeling gross or even a picture of a child with a nasty rash on his bum with hashtag(#)don’t-know-what-to-do; splash across your screen , you know you are dealing with sharenters.
It’s no secret that parents like to babble about their kids. Considering their kids as small trophies, they just love to show them off. When they talk face to face about their kids, parents would get at the most 5-6 listeners but if they post their children’s lives on online channels for everyone to see, nothing beats that exhilarating feeling of instant gratification. The bigger, the better and today there is nothing bigger than social media. Scroll down any website and you’ll see digital footprints of feed related to child’s picture and videos, news and views about their parenting style and announcements of child’s achievement and other related information, which deep down we all know satisfies parent’s bloated ego.
Though it’s true with just a click of button “sharenting has become easier than ever but should parents indulge in this activity considering the risk factor involved with sharing “too much information” online?
Think about the effect sharenting has on the kids as they grow up? Just imagine how a year old Aarav will feel when after fifteen years he sees the photo of his bare bottom which his mother has uploaded on Facebook seeking advice from fellow mothers on what to do with that nasty nappy rash. Obviously he’ll feel humiliated. And by chance, if his friends see that picture he will become a butt of everyone’s jokes. Similarly a three year old Jia would feel uneasy ten years later when she sees herself half submerged in bathtub playing with bath toys. She might even reprimand her mother for posting such a picture on the social site. What should be a “private affair”, sharenting makes it a “public affair”, thus becoming a source of embarrassment for kids later in life.
I happened to read this news where according to French privacy law, parents who post their children’s photos on Facebook without consent could be jailed or fined, or even be sued by their children when they grow up if their offspring feel their parents infringed on their right to privacy. Isn’t it surprising that laws are being made to protect child’s privacy which is being violated by none other than his parents!
Oversharenting sometimes also build an unhealthy atmosphere among parents as they tend to compete with their fellow parents by projecting their kid’s beauty and brains in form of various pictures and winning details. Parents need to understand that in order to fan their own narcissists tendencies they might be hurting the feeling of some other parent. I have also observed that children of sharents are increasingly becoming image-conscious. One of my friends ( a sharent) daughter , all of six years , is always asking her mother to take her pictures in different poses and then help her mother to decide which photograph to upload online in order to get nice comments. Is that little girl’s worth determined by some remarks of relatives and friends who might not have even met her? Time to ponder, I suppose.
Another danger of online sharing of your kids whereabouts, likes, dislikes, habits etc. is it being used by pedophiles, posing a grave risk to your child’s safety. Even if there is remote chances of physically kidnapping a child, how can you prevent digital kidnapping ,wherein art purveyors of child porn take pictures of your kid’s face and photoshop it to be used on pornographic sites and products.
Documenting your kid’s rearing journey online is understandable as it helps maintaining a bond with friends, family and relatives. Also by posting your concerns online , especially in current times when parents sometimes feel isolated and struggle with parenting issues , use of social media is helpful to an extent but if sharenting is done out of habit, it cannot be worth the danger it puts your children in.
If parents wish to update something about their child online, they should do so only with appropriate privacy settings so that the information is not open for public consumption, but limited to their friends and family. There are also some apps in the market which enables parents to share photos, documents, and moments harmlessly and allow using technology in the safest way possible. Alternatively, if you want to share photos with grandparents, attach them to an email. If you want advice on parenting issues, talk with your pediatrician, a counselor, or on your WhatsApp mommy group.
No one can stop a parent from sharing stuff about his child on social media outlets but at the same time this is also true that the crime rates against children on the Internet are rising daily. So think about the pros and cons before sharenting next time.