Sharenting – a combination of “sharing” and “parenting” – is the modern-day practice of parents posting or publishing sensitive content and photographs of their children online. It most commonly applies to parents who share personal information about their children on social media platforms, such as Facebook and Instagram. Some bloggers and vloggers may also share on their websites and YouTube. What many parents don’t realize is the potential risks and drawbacks that can come from sharenting.
What Dangers Are Associated With Sharenting?
It is natural for parents to want to show off their kids. It is also reasonable to want to capture and save fond memories as children grow up using a digital storage option. Many parents use the internet to do this, such as free digital albums and archives on Facebook. Unfortunately, the sharenting trend has a dark side. Publicizing personal information and photos of your children online can make your family a target for crimes, including:
- Breaches of privacy. Big tech companies such as Meta and Google are constantly collecting information from everything that you post. If information that you publish about your kids falls into the wrong hands – either from a company selling it or a data leak – this can put your child and family at risk of privacy infringements.
- Identity theft. While it may seem harmless to post the details of your child’s life online, such as the name of his or her school or your child’s full name, this identifying information could put you at risk of identity theft, fraud or blackmail.
- Child grooming. Sharenting also poses a risk of your child being targeted by sexual predators online. Posting a photo of your child could spark the interest of a pedophile, for example, who may then engage in stalking, tracking your child’s location tags, private messaging your child, or otherwise grooming him or her for sex crimes.
It’s hard for the average person to understand all of the ways that digital information can be used to invade someone’s privacy, steal information and identities, track locations, commit sex crimes, and take advantage of victims in other ways. Yet sophisticated hackers are using modern technologies and a wealth of information that’s openly available online to their advantage. This includes targeting kids whose parents overshare on the internet.
Do Children Have Privacy Rights in California?
Yes. Under the California Consumer Privacy Act, businesses must obtain the opt-in consent (rather than the standard general opt-out) of anyone under the age of 16 before they can sell the consumer’s personal information. If the child is under the age of 13, the parent or guardian must affirmatively opt-in to the sale of information. Between the ages of 13 and 16, the child can make this decision for himself or herself.
What Are Drawbacks of Sharenting?
Sharenting can come with many risks and drawbacks that parents might not consider – not only in the sense of being targeted for crimes, but on a personal level for the child involved, as well. Common drawbacks for children include:
- Embarrassment by children as they age and see what was posted online. Your child doesn’t have control over what you post. You’ve taken away his or her privacy and autonomy. Photos and information posted when they were younger may seem cute at the time, but can become a source of great embarrassment, humiliation and emotional distress for your child later.
- Bullying from classmates. Your child’s classmates may use what you post to mock, ridicule or bully your child – either in person or online (cyberbullying). Kids can be vicious, especially when given lots of material to use in the form of embarrassing facts and photos you’ve posted online.
- A digital footprint that can be found later. As the phrase goes, “The internet lives forever.” Sharenting creates a digital footprint of your child that can be found years later – including by colleges, universities and employers. Sharing inappropriate photos or embarrassing stories could possibly count against your child on a professional level down the road.
Sharenting is full of potential pitfalls, safety risks and disadvantages for your child. The best thing for parents to do is to be frugal with what they share with strangers on the internet about their kids – or not to share anything at all.