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Sharenting is a very 21st century phenomenon and one which we are yet to understand the full effects of, but with studies beginning to emerge, we can get an indication of its repercussions and they’re not good.
Sharenting is a portmanteau of ‘sharing‘ and ‘parenting‘ and is often used in a playfully derogative fashion to describe people who seem to share every tiny detail of their lives as a parent with the world via their own social media platforms.
You know the ones.
You’ve probably seen some pictures of their children already this morning. And last night. And yesterday morning. And every day since they first began to post images of their little ones.
But are they aware of what they’re really doing?
The fact is, by putting so many images of our children online, we are creating a digital presence for them long before they can even understand that that means. It has been estimated that the average American child now has upwards of 1,000 images of them circulating on the internet by the time they reach five years old. That’s a sobering thought.
There is also the issue of who the pictures are being posted for. Children have no awareness of the complexities of social-media fed gratification in terms of boosting the ego, and so there is also an existing argument that by endlessly sharing every aspect of their upbringing in a public forum, the parents involved are simply looking to attain more attention for themselves. In a recent essay on top parenting site Fatherly, Zoe Stagg wrote:
“The game you’re playing is simple — you’re gambling pieces of yourself for gratification. The Harvard study linking pleasure to self-disclosure is part of the explanation, but when you add in your kids to the pleasure equation, your harmless night at the nickel slots becomes “All in.”
Silly smiles, chubby legs in swimsuits, perky pigtails — what’s easier like-bait than that? Kids are endless content generators — the problem is, they’re not the ones sharing. They’re not the ones clicking “post.” And yet they’re the ones who have to become adults with a picture of them on the potty cataloged on Google Image Search.”
Not getting too far into the realm of online narcissism, but there is a strong element of truth to Stagg’s statements. Natalie Krawczyk went even further in her writeup for A Plus, in which she said that Sharenting is ‘ruining children’s lives‘, citing that it’s natural for the 35 and over demographic to share their children with the internet, as they are the ones who have used social media since the very beginning. There is also the issue of ‘competitive parenting‘ and the consequences of oversharing:
The majority of parents who use social media (74%) say they know of another parent who has shared too much information about a child, including parents who gave embarrassing information about a child, offered personal information that could identify a child’s location or shared inappropriate photos of a child, a 2014 survey of 570 parents by C.S. Mott Children’s Hospital found.
Additionally, the separation of children and social media is a wonderful reminder that a division can exist. It’s possible to move beyond the early belief that we are under any obligation towards keeping an online life regularly updated, and look at ways in which to enrich our actual lives. This can be a challenge, especially when it’s now the norm to use Facebook, Instagram and Twitter as a diary.
They’re even making books on the subject of why people’s kids are crying. There are a range of similar hashtags, Instagram accounts and twitter feeds dedicated to this kind of content. While the subject is presented in a jovial and, admittedly, hilarious manner, the subtext is a strange one.
While this ambiguous and challenging subject resonates a little, here’s a humorous take on it all from Cracked.com.
And a slightly more relevatory one from Salon.