Yes, sharenting is a real word being discussed by psychologists, pediatricians, lawyers, teachers, and day care providers.

In the digital age, maintaining privacy is a challenge. And for kids growing up today, the concept of privacy might not even exist. Social networks like Facebook, Twitter, and Instagram have enabled friends and families to stay connected even when apart. But these same networks have also left our respective digital footprints exposed to strangers and bad actors.

According to the Atlantic, “In the United States, the vast majority of 2-year-olds—more than 90 percent of them, according to a 2010 survey—already have an online presence. More than 80 percent of babies younger than that are already on social media, too.”

Sharenting is a term used to describe the habitual use of social media to share content (news, images, etc.) based on one’s children. Sharenting can also refer to parents who post images of their child too often and with too little regard to the risks. A core issue with sharenting is a parent’s often unintentional disregard for the permanent digital footprint they’re creating for their child. And because the child might be too young to have a say now, they will have to live with the digital footprint created without their permission.

As a day care provider, preschool teacher, or in-home caregiver in the age of sharenting, you have an incredible opportunity to educate caregivers about the dangers and guide them towards best practices for using social media while on that crazy journey called parenthood.

Adopt a Private Network
As a child care provider, your first step is to explore alternatives to Facebook, Twitter, or Instagram — or all three — in the form of a private social network.

It is widely known that Facebook and other digital behemoths — like Google — sell user data for profit. What’s more, recent news stories have also highlighted their often weak security measures that have allowed several high-profile data breaches. Show parents that there are other platforms out there that let you make posts, share images, and send messages without mining your activity for the benefit of advertisers and the delight of hackers. .

Offer Guidelines
Even if you move your communications to a private, social network like Go2s, parents still need to be educated about the risks of over-sharing.

It’s important that you, as their day care provider, are subtle in your education efforts, as parents could be put off by your attempts if they feel you are lecturing them.

Position these education efforts on the risks of social media as a value-added service and weave it into other activities. Perhaps bring a guest speaker who has expertise in this area, so as to create a layer between you, the provider, and the parents. A third-party expert can often ease any tension while creating the space for parents to listen to and accept advice.

Here are a few tips for educating your parents on the risks of sharenting:

  1. Get them to adopt a nothing-is-private mantra. While private social networks with strong security are very, very safe — and far safer than Facebook and other big social media platforms — it’s helpful if parents always assume what they post can be co-opted by a stranger or bad actor. By adopting a nothing-is-private philosophy, parents might hesitate to post risky content or images. 
  2. Help them understand their child owns these posts as well. Help parents realize that their child will have to deal with the digital footprint created by their posts. Regardless of whether a child is one or five or 12 or 18, their privacy is impacted by a parent’s decision about sharing or not sharing content. 
  3. Provide parents with a sharenting checklist. Arm parents with a quick set of questions they can ask themselves before they post. If they answer no to any of these questions, they should not post:
    • If this post were about you, would you want it shared?
    • Is there any way this post could shame your child or cause harm?
    • Would you make this content public and viewable to everyone? Essentially everything online could be made public.
    • Do you want this content to live forever within your child’s digital footprint? 
  4. Educate parents on the real risks of sharenting:

    • Images could be stolen and posted on nefarious website
    • Your child’s identity could be stolen
    • Digital kidnapping (when someone claims to be your child’s parent and offers proof via images and content) could occur
    • Erosion of trust between a child and his or her parents as they age and understand more about the digital footprint that exists

Stacey Steinberg, the associate director of the Center on Children and Families at the University of Florida’s Levin College of Law, had this to say about the reality of the sharenting culture in a recent Here & Now interview on NPR: “I think our kids need to be able to come of age in a way that they have control over their digital footprint. So it’s really important that before we press ‘share’ on our digital devices, so to speak, that we really think about who they might become, who they might want to become and how can we best give them an opportunity to control this new digital identity that they’ll grow to be in charge of one day.”

If done with sensitivity, day care providers, preschool educators, and in-home caregivers can help parents protect their child’s privacy while still reaping the many benefits of online connectivity. Choosing to use a private social network and educating parents on social media risks for their children is a great way to reinforce how we can all work together to protect our kids while building a healthy awareness of the value of minding one’s online identity that will carry through a child’s lifetime.

If you would like to learn about Go2s Groups and why more and more child care providers are adopting them to provide real-time parent communications and round-the-clock access to important forms, event calendars, volunteer assignments, and more, check out our website. See how Go2s can help you more efficiently manage a variety of activities in a secure environment that gives you total control over what you see and share.