Parents and Their Digital Kids

Almost weekly I learn a new word. Last week it was “sharenting.” Sharenting is what Stacey Steinberg calls the phenomenon of parents who constantly share information or images of their children on social media. Steinberg, a law professor at the University of Florida, worries that parents may be encroaching on children’s privacy and that this could have unintended effects.

“It’s very rare that parents are sharing maliciously, but they haven’t considered the potential reach or longevity of what is happening with the information they’re posting . . .”  Stacey Steinberg

I share some of Steinberg’s concerns. In college, my supervisor advised students to delete their Facebook pages. Even though Facebook was only a few years old, she had seen students struggle with job placement because employers were able to find some unflattering content they had posted. College professors address this issue every semester with students. Facebook and Twitter have radically changed the entire dynamics of sharing content.

The “cute” photos our parents took of us growing up could only be shared when they were taken out of the box and passed around with friends and family. Those stories that our parents enjoyed telling could only reach a comparatively small circle of friends and acquaintances. When we were growing up,  proximity and relation were necessary for sharing. None of this applies when posting content on the internet. Content on the internet exists indefinitely. It may become buried beneath untold layers of other material, but it can still be found by anyone, anywhere, at any time.

God has placed within humanity the understanding that two of the primary duties of parenting are protecting children and raising them to be responsible adults. This requires that parents consider potential dangers when sharing information online as well as how their posting habits might affect their children’s growth and character.

  • Identity Theft

Children are a prime target for identity theft because their Social Security Number is pristine and no one is monitoring their credit report. Someone can steal a child’s identity and use it for years before anyone suspects a thing.

  • Child predators

Let’s just acknowledge that evil people troll the internet looking for victims. Oversharing could make a child a prime target for such characters. We cannot assume that everyone who sees your post knows you or has good intentions.

  • A lack of boundaries

If a child’s entire life is documented and shared with the world, establishing boundaries on what is public and private can be difficult to establish and maintain. We should not be surprised if children share too much information online if we set that example for them.

  • Narcissism

Many have lamented that Millennials are narcissistic. If this generation is narcissistic, some of the blame should be laid at the feet of parents who placed their children at the center of the world. If children grow up knowing nothing else, they are just living out what was instilled in them by their parents.

Should we stop posting about our children on social media? No. Should we reduce the frequency with which we post about them? Probably. Should we greatly limit the amount  and type of information we post? Absolutely. God has given parents the responsibility of caring for children because they are vulnerable and need protection. Such responsibility extends to their digital footprint. So the next time you have that perfect picture of your child for Instagram, Facebook, or Twitter, before your post, think.

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