These days, an average infant procures a digital footprint even before he/she gets the first tooth. Proud parents begin announcing pregnancy right from day one, by going all mush and verbose about it on social media. Some even post ultrasound images. And then, of course, follows detailed pictorial portrayals of the several stages of the baby’s life. In short, by the time the child learns to speak, he/she already has quite a few GBs to his/her name. So far, so good. But the problem starts when the babies grow up. Experts say some might even feel resentment against parents for overexposing them digitally.
What is sharenting?
Sharenting or over-sharenting describes the overuse of social media by parents to share content based on their children. It is related to the concept of “too much information”.
Why you should avoid sharenting
Psychiatrist Dr Harish Shetty says, “When kids go missing, putting their pictures on social media might work like a double-edged sword. It may cause shame and trauma or may help.” Experts say that sharing pics of kids online could be dangerous because of the exposure they get. He adds, “Paedophiles are always prying on the social media. It makes them vulnerable to various forms of attacks, too.”
Draw the line
Parents discuss child-health and parenting issues online, and many working mothers say that it helps them a lot. Sure, it helps parents by trading tips and advice, reassuring each other and sharing pride milestones. However, experts say, that the thin line separating ‘sharing’ and ‘oversharing’ has high chances of getting blurred. Remember, oversharing information and personal pictures could make your child embarrassed later.
Digital kidnapping is a reality
When parents upload a child’s birth announcements online, there is a risk of identity theft and digital kidnapping. Abroad, where sharenting is huge, there have been instances of teens trying to apply for driver’s licences only to find out that someone already has applied in their name. It has been found that even when parents take the precaution of using only a child’s first name online, the risk still exists. There are also chances of cyber bullying — believe it or not, there are social media pages dedicated to ‘ugly babies’. For a teenager to find his/her face in the list will be traumatic, warn experts.
Many a time, parents feel that they have complete right over their children. But as kids grow up, especially in their teens, they need to have their say. This brings in trust and faith, thus cementing the child-parent bond,” explains psychologist Seema Hingorrany.
“When parents violate these basic fundamental rules, the trust factor is eroded. Many teens come to me, harbouring grudges and resentment against parents. They feel that their parents are dominating and also don’t respect their identity as individuals. Many teens say that they might not be able to trust their parents again. It should be borne in mind that this age is very vulnerable and your teen needs lots of security. That security needs to be built by checking with them if it’s okay to upload their pictures. It’s not about their approval, it’s more about respecting their rights and individuality,” she adds.
Dr Shetty says, “Personal pictures on social media upset kids. Though families share joys with friends online and this space is like a party where people meet, it is important for the children to know and be informed. At times, parents share birthday party pictures with friends that upsets them. There have even been instances of kids getting angry with their parents and unfriending them. Kids also get upset when parents reveal their exam results or pictures of their girlfriend/boyfriend without their permission. Children may get angry, anxious and ashamed due to different reasons. So, they need to be informed and their permission sought all the time.
Tips for sensible sharenting
Parents are the ones who are responsible for their kid’s privacy and they need to be aware and thoughtful about what, and how much they share on social media. They need to know where to draw the line so that while they enjoy the benefits of camaraderie with their child, they can also protect his/her privacy.
Keep an eye on your privacy settings on all social media platforms. Check whether you have granted access to third parties.
Share your child’s pictures only with your close family, friends and people you trust.
Check who all have access to your accounts.
Set up Google alerts in your kid’s name.
Use apps that can collate your social media times so that you can keep track.
Uncheck location settings if you don’t want people to follow you everywhere.
Parents need to ask themselves: ‘Do I really need to keep setting of the album ‘public’? Do these people really need to see these pictures of my children?’
Use private networks to share bulk pictures and albums.