It is common to see parents posting pictures of their children on social media as a way of sharing their parenting journey and memorable moments with their kids.
However, given the perils associated to social media and the internet-of-things (IOT), should we be concerned?
This behaviour has been termed as “sharenting”, where parents share their children’s photos or videos on social media platforms such as Facebook, or blog about their daily life.
Sharenting seems harmless and a reasonable thing to do as part of sharing your journey and experiences as parent.
Parents can keep family and friends updated, share parenting advice, and receive emotional and practical support.
It is also one way to preserve significant moments with children, such as the first steps, birthdays and heart-warming situations, or even funny ones.
Nevertheless, sharenting also raises concerns when parents share too much about their children or reveal their children’s location or other sensitive information.
Posting details of your kids online leaves a digital footprint that they may not appreciate, such as embarrassing moments for them that you find to be amusing.
You also lose control over the data as anyone can copy, edit or use it without your approval, and data collectors and advertisers may use the data for profiling customers.
In a way, poor sharenting can be considered an invasion of your children’s rights to privacy and protection from future embarrassment.
From virtual to real
When parents overshare, there can be real-life consequences.
Materials uploaded to social media may be repurposed for inappropriate or illegal means.
For example, innocent everyday photos of children posted on social media were found on pornography sites accompanied by explicit inappropriate comments, as reported in a 2015 Australian survey.
Other threats include identity theft and digital kidnapping (where a stranger uses a child’s photos to make it look as if the child is theirs).
As mentioned, sharenting can be embarrassing to children, especially when their photos or videos – which may seem funny or amusing to parents, but not to them – are uploaded without their consent.
This can make them feel self-conscious and less confident, or worse, lead to bullying by peers at school, affecting their overall mental health.
Revealing certain information such as their location or daily routine also puts them at risk of being preyed upon, harmed or kidnapped by cyber predators.
These unintended consequences may seem extreme for simply posting your kids’ photos online, but they can happen to anyone, including you!
To share or not to share?
It is natural for parents to want to share or record moments with their loved ones.
But what are the limits when it comes to sharenting?
Here are some guidelines:
Scrutinise the privacy settings of your posts on different social media platforms and impose appropriate controls.
Where necessary, you may also set your social media profile to “private”, instead of “public”.
Consider restricting posts about your kids to only family and close friends.
This is one way to protect your kids’ privacy and identity.
Use acronyms or other ambiguous names like “My munchkin” or “Little one”.
Consider blurring their faces if you are sharing about their struggles.
Sites like Google Photos or Dropbox are more secure and private, and it is easier to control your audience.
Do not use social media sites as your one-stop photo archive, especially for photos with your kids and family.
This includes home addresses, school or childcare signboards, or other details that can be used to track your kids.
Turn off the geo-tagging feature on your social media too!
You can start when they are old enough to understand the concept of privacy, consent and social media (around six to eight years old).
Explain why you want to share their photos and respect their decision if they do not agree.
Try not to include your kids’ friends in photos that you post.
If not possible, you can blur their faces or ask for their parents’ permission.
Most children are usually receptive to parents occasionally sharing their photos or stories, but it is still a tough act to balance between parents’ rights to share their experiences and their children’s rights to privacy.
Of paramount importance however, is for parents to consider their child’s perspective and the consequences, future or current, whenever they share anything online.
Professor Dr Alvin Ng Lai Oon is a clinical psychologist and founding president of the Malaysian Society of Clinical Psychology. This article is courtesy of the Malaysian Paediatric Association’s Positive Parenting programme in collaboration with expert partners. For further information, please email email@example.com. The information provided is for educational and communication purposes only and it should not be construed as personal medical advice. Information published in this article is not intended to replace, supplant or augment a consultation with a health professional regarding the reader’s own medical care. The Star does not give any warranty on accuracy, completeness, functionality, usefulness or other assurances as to the content appearing in this column. The Star disclaims all responsibility for any losses, damage to property or personal injury suffered directly or indirectly from reliance on such information.
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