The dangers of sharenting and how to protect your family

The dangers of sharenting and how to protect your family - A group of people looking at a cell phone - Stock photography

Every parent is proud of their kids. With social media, this pride can be displayed via photos or videos of your kid’s trials and tribulations, whoops moments and of course, their many accomplishments. What better audience than your friends and family on social media whom are ready to like and comment on the cute pics of your kids?

If you are guilty of doing it, normally it’s mostly OK, if you do it excessively, not only is it annoying for the people that follow you on social media, it could also lead your family into trouble. For some, it has gotten so bad that it even has a name: Sharenting. What the heck is sharenting anyways?

The term was coined by the Wall Street Journal when they were talking about oversharenting or over sharing pictures of your kids online. The shorter version stuck and it’s now a recognized trend. How could it affect your kids?

Think about it, anything you post online can stay there FOREVER. If this concept doesn’t faze you, think about this, when the Milky Way Galaxy, where our solar system exists collides with the neighboring Andromeda galaxy, your kid’s pictures could be accessible by future humans, aliens or whomever is around in 4 billion years. Jokes aside, we are living in times where digital storage is so cheap and easily accessible online that it’s perfectly feasible that your kids can find pictures you posted of them when they are in retirement age. Why is this a problem?

Obviously, thinking about your kids at retirement age is a stretch but how about in the not so distant future like when they are going into high school? College? Applying for a job? What if their next boss at a prestigious law firm finds out something embarrassing about little Tommy? What if something you find perfectly innocent today can be misconstrued as inappropriate 20 years from now? But those are not all the risks

Sharenting might lead to Digital Kidnapping

What? You read it. No, nobody physically takes your kids but they can swipe your kid’s pictures online and pretend they are theirs. Who would do such a thing? There are sick people everywhere. That’s not all, there are documented cases of pedophile rings where they collect publicly available kid pictures found online. How do you protect your family from these sick people?

It starts with configuring your privacy settings. Yawn, I know, you’ve heard about this for so long and haven’t done anything about it. Perhaps it’s time to take a look at them but even better, since you are immersed in your own bubble, why don’t you try to search for pictures of your kids and family while logged out of Facebook? Why not ask someone that’s not your friend on Instagram to look at your account to see what’s public and what’s not? The results may shock you.

This is what you need to do:

  • If you have an account just for your child on Instagram, make sure it’s set to private, tell your friends and family members and they can request to join the family circle and that’s that.
  • Go through your Instagram friends to see if you recognize all the accounts that follow you. This is pretty simple, go to your profile page, tap on “Followers” and you’ll see a list of everyone that follows you, click on anybody you don’t recognize to visit their profile and there on the top right you can tap “Block User” and confirm that you are sure. Rinse and repeat for anyone you don’t recognize.
  • On Facebook, the process is pretty simple but you have two choices, you can configure the privacy settings at the account level by clicking on the question mark icon on the top right of the screen and click on privacy shortcuts or you can do a Privacy Checkup. I recommend the privacy checkup since it takes you step by step so you understand what you are sharing and with whom. You can also set privacy on the actual posts, limiting who can see what. Double check that posts that include your or other people’s children are only shared with your friends.

We are living in troubled times and it’s good to be aware about what’s happening in the digital world out there. Social media can be wonderful but as always, you need to be careful what you share or who you share it with. Think about it this way, if you are not comfortable inviting that person to sit on your living room couch and browse through your children’s picture albums, like our parents used to do, they probably should not be looking at their pictures online either.

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