Who’s my Little Instababy? Parenting in a Digital World

It is a fact of life that every parent is proud of their baby and believes their little person is the most beautiful in the world.  Social media has become the perfect platform to share the pride, but at what point does sharing and caring cross safety boundaries? And when does a little become too much?

Read on to understand the risks of “sharenting” and what is important to know.

Another day, another photo opportunity  

Parents are the ultimate controllers of information about their baby, until their small person can make their own decisions.

From the earliest positive pregnancy test and ultrasound photo to the latest messy mealtime image, every move your baby makes will be an opportunity to share. If you are careful about who you are connecting with on social media, the risk is reasonably low that images of your baby will be shared inappropriately. However, it will pay to be open minded about the risks.

Parents are the ultimate controllers of information about their baby, until their small person can make their own decisions.

From the earliest positive pregnancy test and ultrasound photo to the latest messy mealtime image, every move your baby makes will be an opportunity to share. If you are careful about who you are connecting with on social media, the risk is reasonably low that images of your baby will be shared inappropriately. However, it will pay to be open minded about the risks.

Advantages of social media

  1. Quick sharing opportunities. For friends and family who are apart it can be brilliant to see what is happening right now.
  2. To reconnect with people, you’ve no other means of contacting.
  3. Feedback is immediate, if you are going through a low point or want some reassurance, you will get it very quickly.
  4. It does not take long to post and check what connections are up to.
  5. It’s a digital world. To deny this would be unrealistic.

Remember

Once your baby has an on-line presence, they also have a digital footprint. And like the impressions small feet can leave in wet concrete, they can be there for a very long time.

Babies can become the currency of trade in social media circles.  There can be a point where what is meant to be a bit of fun may become something else. Ask yourself, without your baby as a go-between, would you be connecting with this person or people? 

If the product is free you (or your child) are the product/s. Be suspicious about any offer made to you which involves photos of your baby and which you don’t have the final say over.

Your baby has a right to their privacy.  As much as you adore and are connected with them, they are not an extension of you. They are a separate entity with individual rights.  Be respectful of their rights to sharing information and their inability to communicate what they want shared.

Do not outsource your confidence building to someone else. Your baby is unique and special, know this and believe it.

Always err on the side of caution. If something does not feel right to share, then do not do it.  Follow your gut feelings, always.

Sharenting Rules

Technology used carefully can be a fabulous resource, but when it is used unwisely it can also put children at risk of privacy violations and identify theft.  Once information and images are uploaded, they are in digital archives for a very long time.  Your baby will eventually grow into an adult who may not be grateful for the decisions you are making about them right now.

Digital kidnapping is a form of identity theft where someone else could use photos of your child and claim they are their own. New names and identities are given, and although this information is far from factual, there is nothing you will be able to do.  

Children can feel humiliated by social media posts and opened up to bullying, harassment and discrimination.  What you view now as cute and endearing may not be interpreted in the same way by your child or their peers in ten years time. At the extreme, even job opportunities and political persuasions could be affected in years to come.

The decisions you make about sharing information about your child are based on assuming they would give consent. But if they could, would they? Think for a moment about your child’s autonomy and what could be right for them.  Making decisions on another person’s behalf is a huge responsibility.

Over sharing can lead to interest fatigue. Though your intention may be to provide a fascinating update on your baby’s day, this could be an irritation for people who do not share the same unfiltered adoration. Your baby needs to be fascinating to you, that is in their role description. But do not assume everyone else shares the same feelings.

Home devices and smart toys, even monitors can be hacked. The information they gather can be used to create an identity which is ripe for being used unlawfully. 

Always

  1. Use privacy settings on your account. Do not include people who you are not 100% sure have the same moral code as yourself. And ask those you are sharing with not to share again.
  2. Use social media options such as private messaging to minimise conversations being shared publicly.
  3. Check with your partner to see if they are happy you share images and information about your child. It can really help to have someone else’s viewpoint, especially when they do not necessarily have the same sharenting passion.
  4. Assume photos and images you have uploaded will be shared. Be cautious about what you’re putting up – photos of you breastfeeding, your baby naked, bath – time, or without a nappy on are undoubtedly cute to you but can also be inappropriately attractive to others.

Never

  1. Share photos of other people’s children without checking first with their parents.
  2. Include identifying information such as names, addresses, date of birth or uniforms which could all be used to track your child.
  3. Give other information about where the images where taken.
  4. Assume everyone has the same ethics as you do. It is always your job to protect your child.
  5. Share images of children who are involved in child protection or family court proceedings. There is child protection legislation which is designed to protect children in these circumstances.

Written by Jane Barry, Child Health Nurse and Midwife.

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