As parents, we are so very lucky to be raising children in the digital era.
Does it shock you that I said that?
It’s amazing that we can video call our children’s grandparent’s on the other side of the world. That we can have group chats with our parent friends so we have someone to connect with at 2am when our sick child won’t sleep. We can google ‘My toddler hasn’t eaten anything but sultanas for 5 days’ and find a forum full of parents who overcame the same problem and we can find a moment of peace in the unpredictable world of parenting.
With these benefits, there are also drawbacks and a few things we need to be cautious of when we’re sharing our children online.
What is ‘sharenting’?
Sharenting is parents’ use of social media or blogs to share content (photos and/or videos) of their children, such as baby pictures or details of their children’s activities, accomplishments and/or ‘failings’.
There’s nothing inherently wrong with sharenting, there are just a few things you should be aware of when it comes to the sharing of your child on social media platforms.
- There are safety risks involved – There are valid concerns that social media and blog postings could be used to identify a child’s home, childcare/school or play location. In particular circumstances, such as child custody disputes or domestic violence cases, disclosure of identifying information could pose a significant risk, or compromise the validity of a case.
- You might find some much needed support – Many parents of children with serious medical conditions or additional needs find social media an incredible source of support. Parents are no longer limited by physical boundaries and distance and can connect with other families experiencing similar challenges and have a level of support and connection, not previously possible. Parents report seeking advice about naps, nutrition and behaviour on social media.
- You might be judged – one of the main benefits of sharenting is that parents can have access to just-in-time advice and tips from other parents. However, this can also be a problem if inaccurate, unsafe or unhelpful advice is shared. This is particularly the case for parents seeking medical or psychological advice online. You might also get some unnecessary and unpleasant feedback you weren’t expecting so be prepared for that.
What to do about it?
The first thing you need to do is start your conversation about your child’s digital DNA early. Have conversations about what kids post online from a young age. Encourage kids to differentiate between posting ‘personal’ and ‘private’ information online.
Also, make sure the boundaries you set within your family unit are firm. Talk to your partner about what your expectations are and make sure your extended family know the online posting rules regarding your child.
For more in depth advice and research about parenting kids in the digital age, check out my Switched On Parents Portal – this month we’re discussing ‘sharenting’ and how we can monitor our own behaviours when it comes to sharing our kids online.