“Sharents”: Here’s what you should know about this new breed of parents

What is a sharent exactly? If you both have a phone and a child, you may be one of them too. Sharenting is the habitual use of social media platforms to share news and images of one’s children. But putting your child’s whole life out there puts your child’s online privacy and safety at risk. A whopping 6.8 million people had their photos stolen soon after the massive data breach of Cambridge Analytica scandal took place. So, it is time that this new breed of millennial parents pays some attention to their child’s online privacy too.

Sharenting – Chronicling and Sharing the Parenting Journey on Social Media

Parents, especially new ones, love to talk about their children and show their pictures and videos. It is all about sharing the love and pride that you feel. Nothing wrong with it, right? There wasn’t unless you only emailed pictures exclusively to close friends and family.

With the emergence of social media, the whole world can see your baby’s life and his entire history. Everyday sharents share millions of videos. It might not be a big deal, but it is sometimes.

Nowadays, a child’s digital footprint exists way before he is born. Parents, or sharents rather, are into giving out a lot more information than they should about their children. These include everything from ultrasound photos and due date announcements to gender reveals and the spread of smart toys. And of course, the play-by-play of the entire pregnancy which is still frowned upon by many with conventional Indian school of thought. With EdTech tools and smart learning, schools are also collecting tons of information. So, there is little information about your child that is completely private.

New Indian mothers are more likely to share information about their children online, and their feelings of vulnerability about being a mother are associated with their posts on Facebook and Instagram. Technology paired with the sharenting behavior of the Indian parents today is putting young children at risk for cyberbullying, harassment, identity theft, and privacy violations. Yes, you might find those videos extremely cute of your little one’s antics, but would your child want them out there for millions to see when he grows up? He might be embarrassed and even get angry at you for sharing personal moments like these online.

A study shows that in the U.S., more 90% of 2-year-olds and 80% of the babies already had an online presence. All because of parents. The case of DaddyOfFive is a notorious example of sharenting gone wrong. An extreme one at that, but it does state that what might seem like a good idea to you might end up in a disaster later on. And might include your children as well.

The incident involved a couple who were too much into sharenting and shared pranking videos of their children for the sake of likes and comments. The pranks were way out of line and bordered on child abuse. As a result, the couple lost custody of two of their children. This is a clear example of how sharenting can go massively wrong.

What Indian parents need to learn about their child’s online safety

Parents, in general, need more knowledge regarding the consequences of oversharing on social media be it their personal information or their child’s. Sharents are the millennial breed of parents who spent sharing their lives on Facebook, and now their kids suffer the same fate until they are grown up.

They don’t fully absorb and understand the potential consequences and effect of posting such information on the internet.

Here are the two main things that Indian parents need to understand when it comes to sharing information about their little ones online. They must take a cautious approach regarding their child’s digital safety:

  • No matter how many privacy settings you use, which you definitely should, hackers and identity thieves or anyone with wrong intentions would find a way around them. So, nothing online is completely private. If you take down something, if someone saved or downloaded it or taken a screenshot, even your child would face the impacts of going viral after years to come.
  • It is your child’s information. Not yours. Bear this in mind that we all have a digital footprint. Nothing goes away from the internet. Google a name, and it will give you all sorts of information about them. It is one thing to be an adult, and consciously choose to post/share information about yourself. It is something that you decide yourself, but it is an entirely different story if you had no say in it and an embarrassing image/video of you has been doing rounds online because your parents chose to share it with the world.

To sum up, your child also has a right to privacy. You have to take a moderate approach to sharenting. Do not write content about your child that would embarrass them when they grow up. Take a careful and conscious approach and allow them the right to choose which information/image/video about them goes public.

The 5-step process

To simplify things for you, here are five questions every parent must ask themselves before they contemplate sharing anything of their child online.

  • Why? – Why are you sharing it when it isn’t even your information? It belongs to your child, and though they aren’t old enough to allow or disallow it, you should have a good reason before you share content on social media.
  • Would you have liked it if your parent had shared things like this about you? Though it might not be the perfect way to measure, as you might be a sharer who is happy to share, your child might grow up into a shy and reserved individual who doesn’t like attention to himself? If you would be upset with your parents if they had shared an embarrassing incident about you, maybe you shouldn’t regale any such thing of your child either. If they have grown up, and you are a blogger or have a website, then it is wise to ask them first.
  • Is there someone you wouldn’t want to see your child’s life or picture at some point in your life? Sounds extreme? It is, but there are reasons. It has become a common trend for employers and college admission staff to do background research, which involves using Google and checking the online presence of the person of interest. So, if you think that posting a funny video of your child could ruin their chances of getting into their favorite college, or create hindrance in getting a job, don’t do it.
  • Do you deem it necessary for your child’s digital presence? Having a strong digital footprint is very important. Even if you are not sharing something embarrassing, think for a moment, how it would describe your child. You would want them to come across as smart and confident, right? Are your social media posts going to help with that?
  • Would it embarrass your child now or in the future? Though it is in the job description of an Indian parent to embarrass his child, it is one thing to share a funny/embarrassing thing with your child’s girlfriend/boyfriend or the grandparents but another thing to share it with the whole world. Social media is cruel, and people can be mean. Don’t put your child through that.

It is important that as far as sharenting is concerned and the rules regarding it, you and your partner are on the same page. Once your children are old enough to understand, discuss the issue of digital footprints and online safety as a family. Teach them about how they can be good digital citizens as well. In the end, it all sums up to be considerate, kind, and cautious while exposing your child’s details on social media.