As the digital era establishes itself as the leading era in our everyday lives, new phenomena are bound to appear. Moreover, with everyone using social media almost addictively, it isn’t hard to guess what kind of phenomena will emerge. Social media indeed has a lot of advantages, but what happens if the person no longer has a say in their pictures getting posted? When parents worry about social media and the dark corners of the web, they often neglect to realize that their actions and decisions are exactly one of the rising problems regarding social media. The rise of the sharenting phenomena is one of the most drastic problems in generation z lives.
What is sharenting?
The Collins English dictionary defines sharenting as “ using social media to document the gap-toothed smiles, first words and adorable antics of your cherubic children”. Though the concept seems innocent enough, parents nor this definition are truly grasping the bigger picture. No previous generation of children has had such a public childhood. Thus, it is safe to expect some kind of backlash for this behavior. Breaching the kids’ privacy while broadcasting their lives to the world shouldn’t be as accepted as it is today. Furthermore, sharing a picture or two isn’t the problem, the problem is that parents won’t stop sharing and streaming their kid’s lives to the public eye.
One study from Britain even found that nearly 1,500 images of the average child had been placed online by their fifth birthday. Hence, what is supposed to be their private childhood is now accessible to everyone.
Though some parents can be cruel and use such platforms to embarrass their kids, others post because they are simply very proud of them. They want to share their children with the world as the perfect little angels they believe they are. For example, Savannah Morrison, from Glasgow, loves to share pictures of her son with family and friends.
“I love posting photos of my wee one on Facebook/Instagram. I love my friends and family commenting or liking them,” she wrote on the BBC News Facebook page.
“I love commenting and liking photos of my friends’ and family’s kids too, and I think it’s amazing that I can still feel part of their lives although we are miles apart.
“In my opinion, as long as the photos are not indecent and you can justify their presence to your child (if asked when they are all grown up), then crack on.”
However, good intentions don’t always equal good actions. Most parents don’t realize the drastic chain of consequences they set by simply posting a photo.
A drastic problem with long term consequence
Last year, Microsoft released the results of an internet safety study with 12,500 teens participating across 25 countries. Of the teens surveyed, 42 percent said they were distressed about how much their parents “sharented” online. 11 percent of them even admitted that it was a “big problem” in their lives.
An example of this problem is the child of an Instagram influencer writing an anonymous Reddit post to vocalize their concerns about the images posted by their mother. “It sucks because there’s so much out there about us and it’s what’s gonna come up when I’m looking for a job when I’m dating and when anyone looks up my name,” wrote the user, before detailing a plan to stop the mother being able to take pictures: wearing hoodies printed with slogans such as, “I do not consent to be photographed and No profiting off my image”. “I know it’s really weird looking but it feels like my only option,” the user concluded.
Furthermore, Stacey Steinberg, a law professor at the University of Florida said that “Once a picture’s out there, it’s out there. There’s a meme of a chubby, naked toddler, with a caption about overeating for the holidays”.
Then she added, “I did a reverse image search and found that that image had been shared thousands of times. How will this child feel when they find out that they were made a public joke? Thirty years from now, the facial recognition technology may exist to pair that naked toddler image with a CEO, for example.
Burning bridges between parents and their children
Not only can these posts embarrass the children, but they can also play a huge role in burning bridges between parents and their children. “Teenagers may become resentful to their parents,” states Yair Cohen, a UK-based lawyer who specializes in social media. “The issue of self-image is very significant at this age – this is a time when they might not like their bodies or the way they are portrayed in photographs. In the end, they may think, ‘Why did you do this to me? You’re meant to protect me but actually, you exposed me.’”
Moreover, the Adolescent therapist Robert Batt agrees. He states that “Our job is to think about the feelings of the adolescent. It’s important to make sure those feelings are respected, because if they aren’t, then we’ll start seeing consequences. What is more important: the ego and image of the parent, or the feelings of the child who’s being used as a tool?”
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