Are you guilty of 'sharenting'?

Are you guilty of sharenting?

The rules of sharing pictures and information about kids on social media are constantly changing. So, what's appropriate in our digital-savvy world?



by

Janice Rodrigues

Published: Fri 25 May 2018, 4:53 PM

Last updated: Sun 3 Jun 2018, 1:19 PM

All mums and dads in our digital age know what it's like to have their picture galleries flooded with snaps of tiny toes and chubby cheeks. And, once you've taken all-too-adorable snaps of your children (because, aren't they the cutest?), sharing them on social media is a natural next step. So, is it okay to post pictures of a toddler covered in cake batter? What about a seven-year-old with a bedwetting problem? A 10-year-old grinning proudly in his school uniform? Today, sharing information, pictures and videos of one's children has never been easier - and that can blur the lines between what can and should be online.
The age of 'too much information'
Earlier this month, UK-based journalist and blogger Anna Whitehouse put up a post on the intricacies of sharing her kids' information online, and this immediately sparked a debate on the topic of 'sharenting'.
"Sharenting is a term used to describe parents who overuse social media to share information or content related to their children," explains Tamim Taufiq, head of Norton Middle East. "Social networking sites have become cornerstones in our lives, and we love to share our personal news with friends. After all, we live in an era where posting information is encouraged by likes and comments, but when we reveal too much information, there are a number of risks."
So, what exactly constitutes 'too much information'? According to Tamim, it's anything that could inadvertently put your child at risk. "Keep in mind that the information you choose to post may be shared by your connections on their networks as well. Announcing your baby's full name and date of birth can allow cybercriminals to pair that information with a mother's maiden name which might enable them to commit identity fraud. This can go undetected for years, until your child has grown up."
Posting information about your children's whereabouts or details could attract the attention of spambots, vindictive acquaintances or criminals, adds Tamim. Parents should also think twice about pictures they post online.
"Consider this scenario: you post a picture of your daughter in her new school uniform," explains Tamim. "If the picture contains the school's name, either on the uniform or in the background, a stranger wouldn't have too much trouble tracking down her location and identity. Along with the risks of sharing personally identifiable information online, cyber criminals are finding new ways to exploit users via social media platforms. Fake social media profiles, designed to impersonate users in an attempt to steal information or gain access to private data, are an increasing problem."
The above factors are just some of the reasons parents are increasingly cautious about posting their kids' information online, but there is room for more awareness. According to the findings from the Norton Cyber Security Insights Report 2017, only 24 per cent of UAE parents limit information they post on social profiles about their children.


(From left to right) Omar Sultani, Virdah Javed Khan and Zeyna S
What will baby think?
While safety is the most important argument against sharenting, there are factors parents have to take into consideration, and it's something Anna Whitehouse referred to as the 'cost element' in her blog post. The bottom line being, is there a cost to calling your child an idiot online for not eating their broccoli, or detailing the contents of their nappy for the world to laugh at? "What will it mean for our relationship with those we are currently waving a Fisher Price BeatBo toy at?" she asked.
It is a question no previous generation of parents has ever had to ask themselves. "Today, most of our baby photos are lying in dusty photo albums," UAE-based mum and blogger behind www.mummyonmymind.com, Zeyna S. "But when our kids are teenagers, they will be able to go online and see all the information that we put up about them. Will they look back at it in a fond manner, or will they be angry?"
In the end, putting up details about a child's bedwetting problem or an embarrassing video of them attempting to eat sand can be seen as harmless or funny to parents now. But can it lay the groundwork for them to be bullied in the future?
"Keep in mind that any pictures posted online may remain online for good," says Tamim. "Consider how any information or pictures could one day be embarrassing for them or come back to haunt them."
It's definitely something Zeyna keeps in mind before posting. The mother of two, who hails from England, is extremely cautious about what she puts online, from always hiding her two kids' faces to using nicknames instead of real names. "In the UK, online theft is a lot more common and I was always taught to be on the safe side," she explains.
Finding balance
At the end of the day, parents' lives largely revolve around their kids, and not posting can often be difficult. And then there's the matter of explaining your lack of photos or information to close friends and family who just want to gush over the baby online. With the sharenting waters being largely unchartered, many parents have to make their own guidelines about how much they are willing to share.
"Honestly, I'm a bit conflicted," says Omar Sultani, a new first-time dad based in Dubai. "On one hand, it would be so cool to get my kid a handle and hashtag - a documentation of his life. He can then decide if he wants to keep it or not when he grows up. But on the other hand, sharing pictures on social media is for family and friends - not for strangers. Ever since I've had my child, I've put up roughly three pictures online. In contrast, I probably send 20 pictures a week to people I'm close to."
Creating accounts for children is also fairly common today, with many celebrities leading the way. DJ Khaled's son Asahd, for example, has over 1.9 million followers on Instagram - and he's less than two years old. Of course, not all parents have to go down the same path. Omar, for example, has even kept his own Instagram profile private, so if he shares pictures of his little one online, they can only be viewed by people he has approved.
"I didn't always have it as a private account and I was definitely more extraverted with sharing things before," he adds. "But as you get older, you get more conservative. Maybe I'll change my opinion in the future but, at this age, I'm less inclined to post photos of my child for gratification."
Supporting other parents
One of the ways Zeyna deals with being a mum blogger, while avoiding anything that could later embarrass her child, is by posting articles that are more positive. Yet, she's the first to admit that it's a delicate balancing act.
"I have to ensure I don't share their faces, and speak in a certain manner, but I don't want people to think I have it easy! Every single parent has challenges - as a blogger, you need to put this across while being sensitive about what you share," she says, adding that not posting her children's faces has forced her to become more creative with her content.
This idea is echoed by Virdah Javed Khan, Instagram blogger behind @mom_in_dubai, who is comfortable sharing pictures of her kids, in an effort to be more honest and help other mums in the region. "I was a little paranoid when my son was a newborn, but now I enjoy it," explains the Pakistani mother. "Sharing pictures is all part of capturing the experience of being a mother. There is so much other mothers can relate to because I post unfiltered experiences. I haven't had any unpleasant experiences. In fact, we receive heartfelt prayers and it makes me happy to know there are mums out there who send my son their best wishes"
Virdah takes the obvious precautions like not having any pictures of her child bathing or posting address details or their nursery's name. At the end of the day, she believes parents know what's best for their children. "There's too much pressure about being a perfect parent and, in my experience, there is no such thing," she says. "Every day, we are learning from our mistakes and from fellow mums. We need to make the decision and draw the line for ourselves about what will be shared, and what will not."
janice@khaleejtimes.com


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