Sharing every aspect of our lives online has become such a natural thing for nearly everybody in the last few years. Social media is awash every day with photos and videos of cute babies and children. This trend even got its own name: sharenting, made up from the words ‘sharing’ and ‘parenting’. But sharing information about children is something that needs to be thought through first. It seems to be a very innocent act to tell people how proud you are your child has learned something new, but that may affect your child’s life forever.
Addressing the issue, Stacey B. Steinberg, from the University of Florida Levin College of Law, published the study Sharenting: Children’s Privacy in the Age of Social Media. Steinberg says this is a novel thing since social media has grown rapidly in the last decade, and that many parents are unaware of the risks and long-term consequences of the information posted on their social media. Parents are also fooled into believing that changing their profiles to private and sharing only with close friends will keep the information from getting in the wrong hands.
The consequences of oversharing are embarrassment, humiliation, bullying, cyber-bullying, location disclosure, kidnapping, identity theft, data profile building, doctoring of images, photos shared among paedophiles, and more. It is extremely important to reflect on the issue that whatever is published online will always exist. Also, children have the right to privacy, and around the age of 4, they can already decide what they would like to share and what not.
Steinberg found out that children can only benefit from autonomy and that a child’s health and well-being is not limited to a good family and a good diet. But children that grow up having the opportunity to make their own choices and having a sense of privacy do much better in the future as adults. In the article published, she suggests that a different approach is needed: a public health model. In this model, health professionals offer guidance and encourage parents to think what are the best practices to improve their children’s lives.
In order to help parents to question themselves about their online habits, the study has 7 topics to be thought about and discussed. Here are they:
- Parents should familiarise themselves with the privacy policies of the sites with which they share.
- Parents should set up notifications to alert them when their child’s name appears in a google search result
- Parents should consider sharing anonymously
- Parents should use caution before sharing their child’s actual location
- Parents should give their children “veto power” over online disclosures, including images, quotes, accomplishments, and challenges
- Parents should consider not sharing pictures that show their children in any state of undress
- Parents should consider the effect sharing can have on their child’s current and future sense of self and well-being
Lastly, children are people and their wishes should be respected.