Tech Talk: Sharenting - what's the right approach?
To 'sharent' or not to 'sharent'? Dr Bex Lewis is passionate about helping people engage with the digital world in a positive way. She is Senior Lecturer in Digital Marketing at Manchester Metropolitan University and Visiting Research Fellow at St John’s College, Durham University. Here she shares her advice on the benefits and risks of 'Sharenting'.
What is Sharenting?
Sharenting is term used to define parents who share posts on social media about their children, whether the everyday, or milestones such as birthdays, travels, first walk, or medals won. Often known as ‘over-sharenting’, many see it as a negative thing, attracting criticism as repetitive, boring, a form of digital narcissism, humblebragging (“isn’t it terrible that my child is struggling with Grade 7 piano?”), or thoughtless for those who are unable to have children.
The Benefits of Sharenting
For many, sharing posts about children demonstrates that parenting is a valuable role, and is seen as the modern equivalent of round-robin letters, part of the wider duties of communicating with the wider family. Geographical distance limits physical meet-ups and being able to engage online with nieces, nephews, and grandchildren living life in between these has been seized by many with joy. For parents themselves, social media can create a sense of community, able to connect with others, and realising that you are not the only one managing the difficult parts of parenting. For those who have grown up sharing their lives online, sharing parenthood is simply the next stage of their life journey.
The Risks of Sharenting
Every interaction that we make online leaves a trail, commonly known as a ‘digital footprint’, which others, such as future employers, may find on searching for your child’s name (so think carefully before you give your child a very unique name). Many children’s first appearance on social media is the birth scan announcement.Once information is out there, it is hard, if not impossible, to recall it. Barclays are saying because of how much we share online, identity fraud has never been easier, so beware of revealing full names, date of birth, home address, place of birth, mother’s maiden name, schools, names of pets, sport teams supported and/or beware of using the same information in passwords.
Practical Steps to Take
Many of the practical steps that you can take to protect yourself or your child are largely common sense, and involve thinking before you post:
- What platform are you sharing the content on? Facebook is restricted to friends, other platforms are more public. Check your privacy settings.
- Within Facebook use lists, and share content with specific groups of family and friends.
- Take care with photos, especially the ‘traditional’ back to school photos, cropping to remove the school logo, and backgrounds that identify where you live.
- Consider turning off geotagging on your photos.
- Get permission to feature other children.
- Try not to show that you have a regular pattern every day.
- Don’t post pictures of your children naked.
- Check the reshare rights of images that you’re uploading.
Overall, develop your own and your child’s digital literacy. Don’t believe that others have ‘perfect lives’ with their children any more than you do, and consider whether you need to capture everymoment. There is always a chance someone could screenshot the pictures, but someone could take a picture of your child in the park, and if you thought like that you’d never go anywhere.
Having Conversations about Sharenting
Conversations about digital and social media should be an everyday conversation in most households. Think before you post about your children, whether this will cause them embarrassment, or to be bullied. As they get older, ask permission before you post content. Be prepared to take content down, but we over-curate our lives, and as Aimee Horton from passthegin.co.uk says, at some point children need to learn to laugh at themselves, and there’s a difference between amusing (shared with love) and harmful content. There are no fixed rules, but having a bit of thought about what you are posting and where you’re posting it is the critical thing.
Dr Bex Lewis trained as a mass communications historian; she wrote the original history of the poster Keep Calm and Carry On: The Truth Behind the Poster drawing upon her PhD research. She is Director of social media consultancy Digital Fingerprint, and author of Raising Children in a Digital Age: Enjoying the Best, Avoiding the Worst . She has a strong media presence, with her expertise featured in a wide range of publications and programmes, including national, international and specialist TV, radio and press. After her breast cancer diagnosis in 2017, she started to research social media and cancer.
Released On 4th Oct 2018