As a pediatrician, I get questions from parents almost weekly about how to monitor and moderate their children’s screen time, especially their use of social media. Parents want their kids to spend less time on their phones and more time connecting in real life.
However, parents don’t seem as concerned about their own use of social media and how they’re representing their children online. Perhaps they should be.
It’s common for parents to post about their children online. In fact, more than 90 percent of American children have an online presence before the age of 2, according to a study by the internet security firm AVG.
We share so much there’s now a term for it: sharenting. Sharenting describes parents’ habitual use of social media to share news and images of their children – whether it’s poking fun at a pouty teen at a museum or a toddler in the midst of potty-training, proudly clad in Spiderman briefs.
Sharing the highs and lows of parenthood can create camaraderie and support. But before we enter into the social media space, we need to consider whether we are potentially compromising our children’s safety.
We tap into a support network to get us through those difficult moments. An online support community can be crucial for parents whose children have health, emotional or behavioural struggles. Social media can help families stay connected with distant relatives. Video chats with grandparents benefit both kids and adults.
But a darker side to all of this online connectivity potentially exists:
- Posting about our children can put them at risk of identity theft and digital kidnapping, which is when someone copies pictures of a child and then uses the pictures, claiming to be the parent.
- Their photographs can be copied and reposted on webpages frequented by pedophiles.
- Posts can fuel bullying – online or in person.
- If parents share without their children’s permission, they may create a sense of mistrust and disrespect between them.
– Kate Land
Photo Source: iStock/Getty Images