Life Relationships ‘Oversharenting’ must stop: Angela Pippos
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‘Oversharenting’ must stop: Angela Pippos

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If you’re not one yourself, you will know someone who is.

Parents who blog, tweet and post photos of their kids with boundless enthusiasm are impossible to avoid, like death, taxes and lycra.

It’s called “sharenting”.

We’ve all seen the relentless updates of kid with chocolate face, missing tooth face, bubble bath beard face, dancing kid in her mother’s shoes, cute boy sleeping with the dog, child with crayon in hand, child with balloon, child with wooden spoon and on and on and on …

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These snapshots of a child’s life, once the domain of the family photo album, are now framed on the world wide web, and once it’s out there it’s difficult to control.

There’s an awful lot of information being shared and some of it is deeply personal.

Not much is sacred.

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Womb portraits might be taking things a little too far. Photo: Shutterstock

It’s become fashionable to announce your pregnancy with a picture of your embryo nestled in the womb.

At this rate it won’t be long before we see photos of the spermatic race itself.

It all makes me feel a little uneasy.

The way we communicate with each other is evolving at a pace that’s hard to keep up with and social media is the driving force behind this change.

I do it sporadically. Not because I feel any pressure to prove I’m a proud and devoted mother – rather, my partner and I have family spread all over the world and posting occasional photos on Facebook is an easy way for them to see our son.

My misgivings stem from personal experience. I know what it feels like to want a child and not have one.

The bombardment of images of children and the accompanying taglines from proud parents can make women and men who want children and don’t or can’t have them, feel isolated and sad.

Digital identities of children are being created before they’re old enough to consent – a digital footprint before they’ve taken their first tentative steps.

There can also be a sense of “look how great my life is” in a lot of these images – whether it’s conscious or not – and studies have shown “social comparison” can lead to feelings of alienation.

Clearly not everyone shares this view. Sharenting is all the rage, especially among the over 35s, the early adopters of social media.

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How many chocolate-faced children appeared on your Facebook feed over Easter? Photo: Shutterstock

A recent University of Michigan C.S. Mott Hospital National Poll on children’s health found more than half of mothers and one-third of fathers discussed child health and parenting on social media. Nearly three quarters said it made them feel less alone and 62 per cent said it helped them worry less.

I can understand why it can be a source of comfort, but there’s a murky side to oversharing this information on social media.

Three-quarters of those surveyed also identified “oversharenting” as a problem, pointing to those parents who share embarrassing moments, reveal information that could give away a child’s location, or post photos perceived as inappropriate.

Oversharenting can be dangerous.

Digital identities of children are being created before they’re old enough to consent – a digital footprint before they’ve taken their first tentative steps.

Does it matter?

Well, at the very least it has the potential to cause embarrassment for the child. What seems appropriate to post today may not be in ten year’s time.

In the wrong hands we know it can lead to cyber bullying and a loss of self-esteem.

Photographs of children can be an easy target for online predators and there have been cases of “digital kidnapping”, where strangers “steal” online photos and re-share them as their own children.

We live in a world where too many children suffer – in wars, detention centres and in their own homes. So to see a photo of a bouncy happy baby is beautiful. The joy it brings is immeasurable.

I’m not saying don’t do it. We all just need to be aware of the consequences and find the right balance between sharing and protecting the child’s privacy.

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