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Sharenting: A Call For A Better Digital Future For The Next Generation

Sharenting: A Call For A Better Digital Future For The Next Generation

Disclaimer: When it comes to talking about cyber safety (particularly how it impacts children), we adults tend to use the narrative of the repercussions of kids’ actions and what they need to do to do to stay safe online. This topic is a little different, as it emphasizes something that we do as parents. This particular phenomenon may not impact kids instantly, but it absolutely will impact kids in the long run if we aren’t aware of our actions and what we do online.

 

Sharenting: What it is, and Why it is a Problem

If you’re in your mid-20’s, 30’s, or even 40’s, you probably know someone who constantly posts about their kids online. As we assimilate deeper into the Information Age, we become more inclined to post more about ourselves online. This is especially true when we post about our kids: we cherish the moments we spend as they grow up from toddlers to kindergarteners, we’re proud of our kids’ accomplishments as they learn to make decisions in middle school and high school, and sometimes we want to share those precious moments you have of them with the rest of the world.

Granted, the occasional picture of your baby sleeping or your child’s birthday is nice to have. But have you ever wondered how those photos and videos will affect your kids 5 to 10 years from now?

Sharenting (sharing + parenting) is a new trending term used to describe those parents who share information about their children on social media that may be deemed ‘private’ in the future.

You may not share too much information of your kids online, but research from the European Cyber Crime Centre indicates you should still take caution. Photos taken on digital devices contain hidden data, such as the time, date and location. This data can be cracked by online criminals and may place the child at risk. Even if you remove these threats and tighten up your privacy settings, these photos and videos become public property once shared on platforms like Facebook and Instagram.

Once they’re shared online, hackers and online predators can use those photos and do anything they want with them. In extreme instances, parental sharing of children’s information has led to a new phenomenon called “digital kidnapping.” In these instances, people consume all the information you posted about your child and use it for malicious intentions. Some pretend your child is related to them, while others pretend they are the child.

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Sharenting has been happening for a while, and it now happens everywhere around the world. However, it’s more relevant to those living in places like Dubai, where parents don’t just have unlimited access to the Internet and social media but use these networks frequently.

Compare Dubai to the Western World, for example. A 2010 survey conducted by AVG stated that 81 percent of children under the age of two years old currently have some kind of digital profile or footprint, with images of them posted online.

In another survey from 2015, 51% of respondents said they had given out information that could be used to identify a child’s whereabouts. This makes it easier for predators to trace a child’s location.

These things could potentially create dangers for kids in the Arab World if we don’t take the proper precautions of what we do on social media.

 

In a world where we’re interconnected, raising a child can be isolating. Parents can’t do the same things they used to do when they were childless. By living through their child’s achievements, posting images and videos helps bridge the gap and share those joyful moments with family and friends.

Here are a few tips on how parents can avoid sharenting:

Don’t post pictures, videos, or information of your child on social media that might compromise your child now or in the future.

Only post pictures and videos online that you wouldn’t mind any family member or friend sharing to the public; once you give someone access to your photo/video, they can do whatever they want with it (i.e. take screenshots and send it to someone else).

Make sure all your social media privacy settings are set accordingly.

Don’t associate your child’s name with their birthday, school, address, phone number, or anything that you wouldn’t post on your own profile.

Turn off your geo-location service when taking pictures or videos on your phone.

If you have a child who is old enough to have discussions about online issues, ask them for their consent before you post a photo or video of them. Discover the Internet together!

*Although the images you’ve already posted cannot be removed completely, it would still be good practice to review images you have already uploaded.)

Ultimately, the take-home message is simple: think before you post. Be considerate of whether your child would like to see that picture on social media 10 years from now. We always tell our kids to think before we post. Parents (and all adults) should set the example by doing the same, as well.

ABOUT THE AUTHOR:
Romi Ezzo is the lead copywriter at Online Sense, a non-profit organization aimed to educate and communicate with parents, teenagers, and teachers about cyber safety. These topics include, but aren’t limited to: cyber bullying, online addiction, cyber exploitation, and online radicalization. Follow O.S. on Facebook and Twitter to make better sense on the online world.

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