Britain is in lockdown, with all schools closed. Understandably, parents want to stay connected with loved ones whom they cannot see in person. ‘Sharenting’, using social media to share news and images of your children, may seem the obvious solution. But do sharenting parents risk causing dispute between themselves and/or storing up problems for their children in the future?
This blog post, by Silk Family Law solicitor Katie Machin, considers the potential risks and benefits of sharenting. She also offers some practical tips, in the hope of reducing parental conflict over this issue at an already stressful time.
The digital generation
More than 80% of children have an online presence by the age of 2. Typically, a parent will share at least 1,500 photographs of their child before the age of 5. In lockdown, parents may choose to ‘sharent’ more often. (Source: LSE ‘Could a parent sue their parent for sharenting‘.)
By posting pictures of their children, parents deprive their children of the opportunity never to be on social media in the first place. It cannot be forecasted at this time, how far a future credit checker or interviewer may be prepared to delve into a person’s background to review their social data.
In 2018, a study by Barclays Bank forecasted that sharenting will account for two thirds of identity fraud affecting young people by the end of the next decade, producing 7.4 million incidents of identity fraud by 2030. The study found that parents who ‘sharent’ risk exposing their children to greater threat to privacy, security and even personal safety, via data broker profiling (where entities collect and sell on an individual’s personal data), hacking, facial recognition trafficking and other means.
Child psychologists have expressed concern at the prospect of the future impact upon children of having had their early lives publicised, through the narrative of their parent.
Many young adults are already reviewing their online record and finding that they do not like what they see. In 2019, BBC News reported Gwyneth Paltrow having shared on Instagram a picture of her then 14 year-old daughter, Apple Martin. Paltrow has over 7 million Instagram followers. However, Apple herself commented to the page that her mother should have sought her consent before posting. The picture remains on Paltrow’s page.
Separated parents who cannot agree between them a unanimous approach to sharenting may consider involving the Family Court to determine this issue as a specific issue affecting their children, under The Children Act 1989.
Children and young adults could also feasibly use confidentiality laws to force their parents to remove images and content which they have not given permission for.
The alternative view
In lockdown, children and families have, through use of social media, better means to stay connected to one another. Feelings of social isolation may be lessened.
A child may even ultimately be hurt to find that they do not feature at all in their parents’ social media record once they are old enough to review this, when sharenting is so widespread.
Even with the best of intentions by a parent, this is undoubtedly a tricky issue. Taking the above into account, here are some practical ‘sharenting’ tips:
- Think of the child
- Think carefully about the image and caption you put into the public domain.
- Think about the number of images you are sharing.
- Remember that a child cannot give their consent to their images or content about them being shared by you.
- Remove postings if your child asks you to do so.
- Whatever you decide to post/not post, explain your reasons to your children in an age appropriate way.
- Think of the other parent
- Communicate with the other parent your views on sharenting and try agreeing a unanimous approach.
- If the other parent is not currently able to spend time with the child, try to ensure your sharenting does not cause upset. For example, you could send the other parent the photograph before posting more widely to social media.
- Direct contact can still take place between households where it can be achieved safely. Sharing information and use of social media is not intended to replace direct contact over lockdown where this can still be achieved safely.
- Think of yourself
- Don’t feel pressured to post over lockdown.
- Remember that social media presents an edited highlight, not a true reflection of reality. Try not compare yourself unfavourably to other parents on social media, especially during lockdown!
- Remember, the internet never forgets!
- Be informed about how each social media platform uses, controls and stores the images uploaded to it.
- Even if posts are removed, images may have been copied. The only way to avoid this is not to post to social media in the first place.
- Consider sharing images with family and friends privately.
I hope you’ve found these tips useful. Silk Family Law can advise on all aspects of family law, including separation and children matters, you can contact me online or call me on 0191 500 0777.
Blog post by solicitor, Katie Machin.