Sharenting: How Much of our Children's Lives Should we be Sharing on Social Media?
I’ve been thinking a lot about child consent and sharing pictures of my own daughters online during our recent drive to try and push VESTA further on Instagram. The accounts that do really well amongst the VESTA target audience are inevitably the ones in which images of children are par for the course. After all, who doesn’t love to see beautiful pictures of gorgeous children in Liberty-print dresses making daisy chains at Babington House over a bank holiday weekend?
Personally, I have never felt comfortable with sharing images of my children on my public Instagram accounts, other than occasionally on Stories, which are deleted after 24hrs. The idea of their faces being instantly accessible to any old online perv does not sit well with me and I do often go through our Stories views to ensure our viewers seem like legitimate and normal people (easy to do at the moment as we have relatively few followers). It’s probably a pointless exercise; those who are truly malicious will have fake accounts. And anyway, those pervs could just as easily take a photo of them at the playground (sometimes I wonder why we ever leave the house).
Having said that, I have in the past allowed images of the girls to be used in online promotional material - such as for a singer’s tour announcement and a photographer’s online icon - with barely a moment’s thought. I’m not entirely sure why that feels okay to me, but a lovely photo of them eating an ice cream at the park on my public profile feels wrong.
Perhaps it’s because that moment – ice creams, a sunny day, our local park, their little sun-kissed noses and their big, greedy eyes – is our moment. I don’t mind my friends and family seeing it (on my private account), but I don’t want to share it with hundreds of strangers; it feels incredibly intrusive to me. And I certainly don’t need “validation” for it. I know how gorgeous these children of mine are and how edible they look when they’re in the depths of a Cornetto.
I suppose I just feel that monitoring engagement rates where your own kids are concerned is, well, a bit crass. Children shouldn’t be subject to judgement by anyone, let alone online strangers, and especially not for the purpose of increasing Instagram followers.
So that’s my fairly muddled perspective of my own sharenting, and until recently I didn’t really have much of an opinion on what other users did with their public accounts, as long as they didn’t feature my children. But the recent Clemmie (Mother of Daughters) Hooper hoo-ha has been very interesting. She and her husband, Simon (Father Of Daughters), have made a small fortune out of their children.
Their enchanting two-year old twins have lived their entire lives on Instagram and we’ve all been along for the ride. Clemmie has now deleted (or disabled) her Instagram account, amid accusations that she has exploited her children for her own gains. She has said she always asks the elder girls for their consent before posting, but how can they really understand the meaning of the word, or its potential consequences?
Would we have been half as interested in the Hooper family had they never shared a photo of their daughters? Should we be congratulating them on riding the crest of this wave while they can? Or should we be berating them for using their children as props to gain followers and increase engagement on a social media platform?
And is this all a bit of a moral panic? Realistically, what are the long-term implications of posting a photo of your child on Instagram? I can’t believe my 18-year old daughter would take me to court for having posted a photo of her picking her nose aged two. If she did, I’d countersue her for all the times she’s called me “Bummy”. And what made her cross enough to sue me in the first place: the fact I had posted something embarrassing or that I had made her vulnerable to online deviants?
Social media is an amazing network of information, help and comfort; but we’re in unfamiliar territory and we have an essential duty as parents to protect our children from its darker and more obscure community. And more importantly, we need to ensure that our own children learn how to use this technology wisely. If we, their parents, are sharing minute details of our kids’ daily lives - and some of us are even monetising that sharing - how can we expect them to comprehend the dangers of some online communities? If one of the main pillars of good parenting is to lead by example, then perhaps we need to think carefully about our online sharenting.