I am a sharent.

Photo Credit: Tania Liu via Compfight cc

Photo Credit: Tania Liu via Compfight cc

Reflecting back on last week’s discussion in class and some of the readings I thought about what stood out most to me. The discussion surrounding online identity and privacy was the one that stood out most. I wanted to think more about the implications of sharing photos of our children online and came across the term “sharenting”. I had never heard of this before and was quite shocked to learn that I am not just a parent…but a sharent.

“Wikipedia describes sharenting as “the overuse of social media by parents to share content based on their children.”

Rochelle shares a great blog discussing the importance of being a good digital role model for our children. In her blog she shares this thought provoking video from UMHealth Systems about sharenting. In the video it mentions that sharenting isn’t about simply posting pictures and updates about our children, it also includes asking for and giving advice on social media.

Emma Waterman believes we are sharing too much information about or children and creating an online identity for them that they may not be happy about when they are older. She shares results from a study completed at the University of Michigan’s C.S. Mott Children’s Hospital including:

  • more than half of mothers and one-third of fathers discuss their children on social media
  • 72 percent of those parents surveyed claim sharing their struggles and triumphs publicly makes them feel less alone
  • parents with kids ages 0-4 are talking about sleep issues 28 percent of the time, nutrition and eating tips 26 precent of the time, daycare/preschool17 percent of the time and behaviour problems 13 percent of the time
  • more than 60 percent of adults surveyed said social media helped them worry less about their skills as a parent

When we post about all of these things we are not only posting on our own behalf to seek advice or reach out, we are posting on our children’s behalf without them even knowing. In 10-12 years down the road when they get their own social media account and friend us what will they think when they look back on our pictures and status updates? Will they be embarrassed by the things we shared? Will they feel guilty when they read us complain about lack of sleep or tantrums they throw? How does our posting affect their identity? How does it affect them emotionally? These are all things we need to consider when we post about our children online. The participants in the study revealed:

  • more than half of parents worried their kids would feel embarrassed in the future
  • three-quarters of parents identified “oversharenting” by another parent as a potential problem
  • two-thirds of parents involved in the study are concerned about privacy issues

The findings are interesting. I do share about my children and although I can’t think of a specific post or picture that they may be embarrassed about in the future, I am sure there is. I don’t worry so much about the privacy issues although I probably should be more worried. I guess I feel like I know my ffriends online well enough that they wouldn’t do anything to my pictures that would cause me to worry. But that being said, do I really know my online friends based on their online identity? Everyone I know online I know quite well in real life as well so I feel like I do know them. But I could be completely wrong.

This thought from Emma was very powerful:

“If we saved all personal profiles on Facebook in a time capsule, would future generations assume every child was a medal-winning, snuggly, veggie-loving genius? Or would they think kids went to bed too late, woke up too early and constantly fought with their siblings?”

Photo Credit: krossbow via Compfight cc

Photo Credit: krossbow via Compfight cc

This shows some of the updates parents are updating about. I feel like we have all seen parents who are constantly only posting the positives and others who often post about the negatives. Regardless of what people are posting about it seems that people are always quick to offer advice. The problem is that every parent parents differently. When you ask others for advice online you never know what you will get and you may even be on the receiving end of shaming or negative comments.

In Digital Identities: Who Are You When You’re Online?, Dayna Braunstein looks at why we sharent. Often we want to share the funny or cute things that are children do. We also tend to share information about the things we do most. For someone who plays sports they might update a lot about their activities, for someone who is at home with their kids all the time they may post more about their kids than others. Parents are also isolated a little more than non-parents so sharing online helps them feel connected. These are all reasons that contribute to our sharenting but we have to be sure we think about the emotional implications it may have later on for our children.

Dayna also discusses the purpose of an online profile. A profile is supposed to inform others about us including our interests, hobbies and even our values. When we overcrowd our profile with information about our children our profile becomes less about us and more about our children. Even though our children are a large part of our life we still have other roles and interests. I have always said that it’s important for me to continue working, playing sports and going out socially because I don’t want to be “just a mom”. There is more to my identity than just being a mom but does my profile reflect this? Looking over my profile I feel like it does, but maybe I’m the only one who sees it that way?

Dayna suggests that “the fundamental rule of online privacy is that you don’t directly write about other people without their permission because there’s a risk of negative consequences.” And she asks the following question:

“Isn’t it strange that this rule of courtesy doesn’t extend to children, who are unable to give informed consent to having their information shared publicly?”

Photo Credit: Stampendous via Compfight cc

Photo Credit: Stampendous via Compfight cc

Why are we allowed to post about our children without their consent? Does being their parent give us this right? If we put ourselves in their shoes, how would we feel if a friend constantly posted about us without us knowing only to find out about it later on down the road? How will our children feel when they look back at what we have posted? I like to think that my children will enjoy looking back at the pictures because they provide memories of vacations, days at the park, accomplishments as well as struggles. I compare it to myself going to my parents and looking back at scrapbooks of pictures and keepsakes. Are my online albums the same as my parents physical photo albums they have? Have the times changed replacing physical scrapbooks and keepsakes with online ones? The only difference is that my scrapbooks at my parents aren’t shared publicly for the world to see. If my privacy settings are set to friends only does that make it okay? I know that I have been thinking more before I share things, but I don’t want to stop sharing because I do like to keep friends and family up to date with our life.

What are your thoughts on sharenting? Do you do it? What do you think your kids will think when they look at your profile years down the road? How does it compare to a physical photo album? I’d love to hear what you think.


One thought on “I am a sharent.

  1. You’ve given me a lot to think about Ashley! Overall, I am leery of “sharenting” (new term for me too). Not because I don’t like seeing updates of friends and their children (I actually love it), but because I worry about the digital footprints that are being created for kids. Thinking about having social media platforms, even if protected, as a type of online photo album leaves me weary because society is just beginning to understand the complexity of these platforms and how truly permanent they are. We are the first generations taking part in these practices. Who knows, it may become standard and completely secure in our lifetime!


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