Family life

Sharenting: Will it hurt our kids?

We're all guilty of "sharenting." But how much is too much when it comes to posting about our kids online?

Jennifer Pinarski

Will “sharenting” hurt our children? Photo: Jennifer Pinarski

I remember the first time I ever blogged about my son. I was nine weeks pregnant and I’d just come home from an emergency ultrasound after experiencing some spotting. Up until that point, I’d kept my pregnancy under wraps. But hearing my son’s heartbeat on the grainy ultrasound triggered such an overwhelming sense of love that I quickly typed a blog post with a photo of the ultrasound.

Eight years later, I’ve continued to document my pregnancies, my children’s milestones, and our family’s triumphs and tragedies. My kids’ baby books are incomplete, but I can guarantee that there’s a tweet for every diaper blowout, skinned knee and sleepless night.

My online habits back up research from Internet security firm AVG, which claims that more than a third of UK children have had images of themselves uploaded on social media by their parents. In fact, AVG says that the average infant has a digital footprint before their first tooth. The Guardian columnist Nione Meakin calls us “sharents”—bloggers and social media users who frequently post about our kids online. Of course, there are “oversharenters”—think puke, poop and placentas—and Meakin discussed those as well. Personally, those are topics that, even for me, a chronic oversharer, won’t be putting on Instagram anytime soon.

Read more: Is it time to stop sharing photos of our kids online?>

Children and digital privacy was this week’s “Room for Debate” topic at the New York Times. Experts and viral video sensations all chimed in on the benefits and drawbacks of sharing what used to be private family moments with the online world.

“Sharing content of your children should be done with an understanding of the potential unintended consequences for parents and children alike,” warns Common Sense Media‘s James Steyner. “Although we may be interested in sharing details of our own lives, we shouldn’t presume our children want their stories shared publicly.”

As a blogger, this is something I struggle with all the time. With each post I write, I worry about what my kids will think when they Google their names five years from now. How will they feel about the parts of their lives I’ve shared online? Every photo I publish is always done with their consent first, and my kids get the final say on post topics. However, each time I publish something, I wonder if I have told their story the way it deserves to be told—honestly, fairly and with their privacy respected.

Read more: The debate: Should you post about your kids on Facebook?>

While I could simply quit blogging and delete my social media profiles in the name of protecting my family’s privacy, I think there is too much value in being able to share our lives with one another. For example, when I blogged about my ultrasound eight years ago, the outpouring of support helped me through that scary time in the early stages of my pregnancy. Balancing the importance of social media with the need to safeguard my kids’ privacy is a very difficult thing to do—and I don’t think I’ll ever be sure if I’m doing it right.

Do you blog about your kids? What is off-limits?

Follow along as Jennifer Pinarski shares her experiences about giving up her big city job and lifestyle to live in rural Ontario with her husband, while staying home to raise their two young children. Read more Run-at-home mom posts or follow her @JenPinarski.