The pandemic drew many of us online for almost all our regular activities that typically kept us outdoors, from work and studies to shopping and entertainment. But, most of all, we’ve spent even more time socializing in cyberspace, seeking comfort at a time of intense solitude and uncertainty.
As a result, social media use and postings have vastly increased for the majority of us. Even those who previously maintained a modest social media footprint have now gotten more active online. But we all know the dangers of over-sharing our personal lives. The risks are even more when youngsters are involved.
The digital privacy of children has become a hot topic lately. Experts are raising concerns about parents who divulge too much about their kids. And these sharenting habits have taken a lot of heat in the recent past, mostly because of the serious risks attached.
So, what is sharenting? It’s the practice of oversharing any type of content about kids on digital platforms like social media. These can include photos, videos, and other content formats that could compromise a child’s identity and privacy. But in reality, what’s labeled as excessive sharing could be highly subjective. So, to simplify, any form of sharing at any scale could fall under sharenting, whether it’s a daily video diary or an occasional random photo.
But today, unraveling a life story on digital platforms is in high trend and has taken an almost addictive form. So, how can young parents curb their instinctive tell-all tendencies and keep their kids safe?
UNDERSTAND THE RISKS
Of course, for many parents, posting a video of their toddler twirling around in a fairy costume could hardly have any sinister outcome. But the internet could be a frightening place, just like the real world. So, keeping your guard up is essential for the sake of both you and your child.
The fact is, an innocent post you put up on social media today could end up wreaking havoc in your child’s life years into the future. For instance, it could be the cause of bullying, a common issue among youngsters. Bullying, both in cyberspace and in the schoolyard, is highly prevalent and is a source of mental distress for kids of all ages. So, there’s a high chance that a half-dressed picture you post of your toddler might end up tormenting them a few years later.
Now, sharenting risks are not just limited to bullying. What you disclose will affect their personal image as adults, too, and might even damage their career prospects one day.
Then there’s doxxing, exploitation, and child harassment. Unfortunately, the internet is a haven for individuals like pedophiles and criminals. In the digital space, anyone can remain anonymous or take up new identities. As a result, a pedophile, for instance, can easily pose as a child and strike a friendship with a youngster. It’s a serious threat often fueled by sharenting habits: the content you post could lure in these individuals and drag your child into unnecessary trouble.
Identity theft is another issue. A criminal can piece together different personal information you publish, like the full name and date of birth, and steal your child’s identity. Child identity theft is a vastly prevalent threat: it’s relatively easy to commit and takes longer to uncover. And a compromised identity could have devastating repercussions for your child, particularly as they enter adulthood.
Evidently, the risks of sharenting are plenty. But when you understand them better, it’ll get easier to fight back the urge to share.
PRIORITIZE OLD-SCHOOL SHARING METHODS
Digital data poses particular risks unique to cyberspace. For instance, once you post something online, getting it removed is nearly impossible. It’s because copying, storing, and downloading data is much easier in the digital space. Although people search websites, including Nuwber, TruthFinder, and BeenVerified, among others, can easily remove the information they store, it doesn’t mean that this data will be removed from other sources, such as social media, for example.
So, limiting your communications to those closest to you or setting up privacy restrictions to prevent unauthorized access will not always guarantee digital data privacy. For example, what you post on Facebook is downloadable and what you send on WhatsApp is shareable. This makes safeguarding digital data extremely difficult. Plus, it could even get hacked. A data breach could easily expose the most personal data of your child you’ve stored or posted online.
So, opting for old-school communication methods might be a safer alternative. For example, share those proud moments in person with family and friends. Or stick to phone or video conversations. These can significantly minimize data threats and give you better control over what and how you disclose your kids’ personal details.
GIVE YOUR CHILD A CHOICE
Youngsters are exposed to a world that is immensely different from that of their parents. As a result, they have different views and opinions, and they’re much more digitally savvy. They are also more conscious about their self-image and concerned about what personal information they reveal.
Now, what you share as a parent might easily embarrass them or leave them feeling vulnerable or emotionally distressed. So, it’s essential to consider the possible long-term effects of what you’re about to post. Give your kids a choice so that they can say no if they are uncomfortable with what you intend to divulge publicly. Make them part of the decision and ensure they feel heard.
Ultimately, when you post content, you’re creating a data trail that could affect their future as adults. So, it’s essential to let them decide when and how they would like to begin their online footprint. Instead of publicizing your child’s personal life from a young age, let them determine how they want to manage their public profile.
If you suspect that you’re a sharenting parent, then it’s time to take note and consider the many unintended consequences. Help your child take charge of their digital footprint so they can enjoy the virtues of the internet in a safe online environment.