Sharenting refers to the frequent use of social media for sharing information about ones child or their images in photos. Parents in the UK post nearly 200 photos of their under 5s online every year, meaning a child will feature in around 1,000 online photos before their fifth birthday.
There are concerns, both from some adults and children, about how sharenting can have negative consequences for youngsters such as cyberbullying, a negative digital footprint, identify theft, pedophilia and children’s mental health problems.
Some countries have begun regulating sharenting such as in France, parents can be jailed and fined if their children choose to sue them for breaching privacy and some reports indicate fines of up to €45,000.
Children can have different reactions to sharenting. Microsoft released the results of an internet safety study of 12,500 teens across 25 countries. Of the teens surveyed, 42 percent said they were distressed about how much their parents “sharented” online, with 11 percent of them believing it was a “big problem” in their lives. Another study involving Estonian children aged nine to 13, she found that children liked “parents sharing positive things about them”, but that “there were big discrepancies between what children and parents considered to be nice photos”. The University of Washington and University of Michigan studied 249 parent-child pairs across 40 states and found that while children ages 10 to 17 “were really concerned” about the ways parents shared their children’s lives online, their parents were far less worried. About three times more children than parents thought there should be rules about what parents shared on social media.
Some children have expressed that they feel parents sharing their information is a breach of privacy and that their youth is an intimate thing not to be shared publicly. Others felt betrayed and utterly embarrassed, some felt unsafe and that companies have their data. A 16-yr-old in Italy won a court case against his mother who constantly posted photos of him on Facebook.
The take-home message here is that parents do not have automatic consent or permission to share information and images of their children, irrespective of their age because the children grow up and they need to have a life of their own and an identity of their own, which they have a right to craft themselves. It’s traumatic and an invasion of their privacy to already have been made objects for public viewing, in many cases before they could even speak.