Where Do You Stand on “Sharenting” ?

PRO V. CON: Sharenting 

The sharenting trend calls into question where the line is drawn between a parent’s right to share and a child’s right to privacy. Whether you’re posting a video of your child’s first steps, commenting on a “Tips for New Parents” article, sharing your teenager’s sweet 16 birthday photos, or writing a status about your child’s recently broken leg, social media has allowed parents to easily share the ins and outs of their family’s life online. The Wall Street Journal reports that parents will share almost 1,000 photos of their child before he or she is four years old.

Sharenting, or the act of parents sharing their children’s photos or information online, continues to be a hot topic in the social media world. How much sharing is too much? While social media has allowed families who live far away from each other to stay connected and has offered support to parents at any stage, criminals have also found ways to take advantage of the plethora of personal information available on these platforms. 

What does the law say about sharing?

Federal laws, like the Children’s Online Privacy Protection Act (COPPA), are in place to prevent others from collecting your children’s information. This law prevents anyone under the age of 13 from releasing information about themselves, as well as prevents others from collecting any information about those individuals. 

COPPA’s sole purpose is to protect children’s information from falling into the wrong hands. This law is particularly significant online because it prevents social media companies and other online entities from collecting information about children under 13 years of age. 

To date, there are no laws preventing parents from sharing their children’s information online. Babies began appearing on Facebook in 2004, and kids began posing for Instagram in 2010. This remains possible because the law does not prevent individuals over the age of 13 from releasing information about others, including children. As a result, parents who share their children’s information online have created a loophole in the law. Sharenting allows criminals and other unwanted onlookers to collect information about your children legally.

Follow us as we explore both the pros and cons of sharenting, and learn more about how to safely share your parenting experiences online.

parentof1PRO: The Freedom to Post 

Parents use social media for a variety of purposes throughout their children’s lives. Pro-sharenting advocates note that, by law, parents (or anyone over 13) have a right to post freely to their personal pages.

Pro-sharenting views provide four main motivations for sharing their children’s lives on social media:

The Proud Parent
Parents are naturally proud of their children. This is why social media is the perfect platform for parents to share their children’s accomplishments and awards with friends and family. You want to share your child’s first day at school, wish your child a happy birthday and congratulate your child for his or her hard-earned academic achievements. In fact, studies show that 56 percent of parents share information about their children’s accomplishments online.

A Community Feel
screen-shot-2016-11-07-at-10-30-38-amSocial media, hence the name, is a social environment. A study by Crowdtap found that more than 90 percent of parents on social media view it to be helpful with parenting. Given that 75 percent of parents are social media users, and more than half of them share the details of their parenting experiences online, parenting is a popular discussion topic across social media platforms. Parenting-specific forums offer a place for parents to come together with others who can relate.

A Support System 
A poll conducted by C.S. Mott Children’s Hospital found that 72 percent of parents felt that social media helped them to not feel alone in the parenting process. Social media can also act as a support system, particularly amongst parents of children who are disabled, have a serious illness or are missing. According to the Pew Research Center, 31 percent of parents have posed at least one parenting question on social media. Some popular topics include: how to get kids to go to bed (28 percent); nutrition and eating habits (26 percent); discipline (19 percent); daycare and preschool (17 percent); behavior problems (13 percent).

Staying Connected
The motivation behind 67 percent of all social media use is to stay in touch with friends and family members. Social media gives parents the ability to offer a window into their child’s life for friends and family members, especially for those who live far away. Thanks to social media, long-distance friends and relatives can be included in a child’s upbringing through comments, messages, likes and shares.

parentof4quote-2CON: A Child’s Right to Personal Privacy

Where do you draw the line when sharing your child’s information online? While parents want to share the ins and outs of their parenting experiences, how much information is too much?

Anti-sharenting views provide four main motivations for keeping your children’s information off the Internet:

Risk of Harm
Seemingly harmless posts — birthday announcements, sports team photos, school awards, check-ins using your or your child’s location – can actually provide a substantial amount of personal information to criminals about your child. Your child’s physical safety could be at risk if you post information about your child’s location or use geotags on photos. Media that includes sports team names, high school jerseys or street signs help criminals discover your child’s school, age and general location.

Building an Unwanted Digital Identity
Your digital identity consists of your Internet activity, habits, behavior and the information you leave behind online. Sharenting allows parents to begin building their children’s digital identities through photos, videos and other information posted on social media before their children know it exists. The contents of a child’s digital identity can cause bullying at school or even affect his or her reputation as an adult. A parent-child survey found that 18 percent of children want their parents to ask permission before posting a photo of them online.

Targeted in Scams  
digitalandvirtualkidnapping2-2Scams come in all shapes and sizes. Sharenting opens the door for criminals to carry out scams that specifically target parents and children. While we discussed earlier how sharenting can increase your child’s risk for physical kidnapping, scammers use a child’s photos, videos and personal information to scam parents through digital and virtual kidnapping.

Risk of Identity Theft

A survey that studied parents who used social media found that 74 percent of parents knew someone who had shared too much information about their child online. As stated earlier, criminals use social media to collect information about their victims. Children are unlikely to check their credit reports or to own property, thus allowing criminals to misuse a child’s information for longer than an adult’s information. As a result, child identity theft often leads to irreparable damage to a victim’s credit – damage that can affect your child once he or she becomes an adult.

parentof2What should you do? 

Regardless of your stance on the issue, use these tips to help keep your children safe when sharing information about them online:

  1. Review your social media privacy settings – Make sure that your privacy settings are up-to-date on both your personal pages and group pages you create or join.
  2. Double check what you’re posting about your child – Avoid posting photos with your child’s school name, age or school level, identifiable street signs or local sports team names that could reveal personal information about your child.
  3. Find out what your child thinks – Even at a young age, online privacy is an important discussion to have with your kids. Talk about the media you post about them online, and ask your child if he or she is comfortable with what you post about them. 

The views and opinions expressed in this article are those of EZShield Inc. alone and do not necessarily reflect the opinions of any other person or entity, including specifically any person or entity affiliated with the distribution or display of this content.

John is General Counsel and Chief Privacy Officer of Sontiq, the parent company of the EZShield and IdentityForce brands. He is a Certified Compliance...
Read more about John Burcham.

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