Think before you 'sharent'

Leona O'Neill on why parents need to think before they become 'sharents' by posting pictures and videos of their kids on social media

Many children hate it when their parents share pictures of them online without their consent

LAST week we marked Safer Internet Day. It was a day for shining a light on, among other things, how our children engage with the internet and how they feel about their parents' social media coverage of their lives.

Our generation is the first to be able to put our kid's lives out there in the digital world for all to see. Stories about their potty training 'journey', their little hilarious quirks and how they have driven mammy to drink are common place on Facebook.

It's been pretty hard to gauge what our children think of it all until now.

Everyone has that friend who is trigger happy with the camera phone, taking photo after photo on a night out and tagging you on Facebook to photos you don't want to ever set eyes on, never mind be published for everyone from your granny to your boss to see.

If you think snaps of your bleary-eyed self belting out Kylie Minogue numbers in the pub is embarrassing, think on how your kids feel when you're posting pictures of them doing kids stuff on your social media platforms.

Last week, BBC Newsround went around the UK asking kids what they thought of their parents sharing photos on them on social media, or what the 'give every trend a name boffins' call it – 'Sharenting'.

The children questioned said that they hated it when their parents shared pictures of them without their consent. One little girl said that she was still haunted at nine-years-old by video footage that her mother shared of her falling into her first birthday cake.

One in three kids told Newsround that they felt nervous, anxious or worried when their parents shared photos of them. They spoke of fears over bullying and also of receiving nasty comments under pictures.

Kids said that parents posted photos of them just 'to have a laugh with their mates', that they didn't find it funny and were worried about their peers seeing them.

I share the odd photo of my children on Facebook, but I have my Facebook page set to private so that only my friends can see it. There is no trace of my kids on Twitter at all. I find it such a vicious, vitriolic environment, I can't expose my kids to that.

My two older sons now have their own social media accounts. They are in control of their own digital footprint and generally refuse to get into any photos with the rest of us.

Social media is so woven into the fabric of today's modern world it is difficult to escape from. Children are born onto social media. Within seconds of them arriving into the world, their crumpled, chubby faces and odd-shaped newly born heads are plastered all over Facebook, the 'likes' running into their hundreds and thousands.

Children's life moments are captured and posted – first words, first steps, their successes, their mistakes, everything is laid bare for all to see.

These moments – their digital footprints from birth to now – are online forever, so that when a future employer views the video of that time when they were three and covered the living room in Sudocreme, they won't get the job because they are a loose canon.

Or their future husband or wife can read the post about the time they wet the bed when they were nine. Is it any wonder they feel nervous and anxious?

The problem with sharenting is that we are taking our child's private moments and sharing them with potentially thousands of people, some of whom we have never even met in the flesh.

We are making the decisions to make information public on their behalf. What seems funny now, may lead them to earning a nickname in primary school, or being bullied 10 years from now.

A good rule of thumb is to only post photos of your kids that you would want posted of yourself. Would you want to be captured with Spaghetti Bolognese all over your face and the bowl on your head? Or in the bath with a suds beard?

We should all think before we sharent. Our kids will thank us for it in years to come.

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