Too much information? Lindsay Woods on 'sharenting'

SHARENTING: a term used to describe the overuse of social media by parents to share content based on their children. It is related to the concept of ‘too much information’. There is an ongoing debate as to how parents can balance their right to share with their child’s interest in privacy, writes Lindsay Woods.

The term is defined by one of the cornerstones of the internet: Wikipedia.

Social media is a vastly different animal to when I joined several years ago. Instagram launched in October 2010, an entire year after the birth of my first child. My second child followed along in 2011 yet it was not until she was a year old that I finally dipped my toes into the world of social media.

The early days of sharing involved framing our squares with a white border and an overfondness of the Hudson filter. Shabby chic was cutting edge and hashtags were minimal. It was all so innocent. No agendas.

But, social media is big business. Instagram boasts one billion monthly users. One billion. Instantaneous connection at your fingertips. We are a generation of sharers. Which has as many pros as it does cons. But when that sharing involves others: namely, our children, where do we draw the line?

I decided initially to not put myself in the ‘Glasshouse of Parenting Wisdom’ by saying that I would never share photos of my children online. But I did want to control how I presented the images. I applied the following logic: ‘If this was a photo of me, would I be happy to see it?’ I feel, largely I have stuck to that.

Now that they are older, they do not feature as they once did; a choice expressed by them and respected by me. When I have written on a topic which concerns them directly, I ask their permission to do so. For me, I hope this highlights to them how I respect their choice and hopefully instils in them a responsibility towards the use of social media.

There are those who scoff at digital platforms; yes, there is a sizeable chunk which can be unnecessary but for me, it is intrinsically linked to what I do now. A digital footprint is essential to how I communicate. It is quick and accessible and whilst I can acknowledge the positives, I am equally conscious of trying to maintain a smaller as opposed to a more sizeable print.

But when do moments of my day which I share online cross over into the domain of ‘Sharenting’?

By sharing the tougher moments, it allows me to connect with others who have had similar experiences. It allows us as parents to know that we are not alone. In an age where we work longer hours, with more demands upon us socially and professionally it can be somewhat of a comfort to speak with someone who can reassure you that you are, in fact, mucking along quite nicely.

It’s hard to navigate to what degree you should share. With the monetisation of socials, the noise has increased considerably in volume. But, you can easily reduce those levels by one turn of the dial.

As each year has passed, my social presence has become more about me as opposed to my children. But I do not regret what I have shared, or will share in the future, as they are as much a part of me as I am of them. It comes back to responsibility; the hope that I can show my kids how to use those platforms responsibly. That by the time they will be engaging online they will understand respect and the effect of their words.

I could adopt the approach of burying my head in the sand and forbidding any knowledge of digital advances. But by forbidding, I make it illicit and all the more covetable. So, I choose discussion and education. To accent the positives whilst highlighting the negatives and how best to handle same. To not scaremonger yet instil an acute awareness of their own safety.

I hope that when my children are of age, that they will look back at my virtual thoughts as a snapshot of a moment in time; the good, the bad and the ugly. That they will hear my voice and mine alone. The times I failed, the times I succeeded and all the other flotsam and jetsam of our daily life. How a collection of little squares and the people within them, helped me immeasurably.

But, I also hope, they will still indulge me occasionally and allow me the the annual birthday photo when I will gush and marvel beyond measure at the passing of another year. A one time ‘Sharenting’ opportunity if ever there was one. At least until the Christmas pyjamas photo…


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