“Sharenting” May Be Common, but How Does It Affect Kids? Experts Explain

Getty / Vera Livchak

Parenting in today’s digital-first, social media world comes with unique challenges that generations before us didn’t have to navigate. For millennials, growing up meant milestones were captured and shared through photo albums, diaries, and stories told from memory.

Younger generations, however, are now experiencing the opposite: milestones are made accessible and publicly available by their parents. These early digital traces mark the start of a child’s online presence, which will continue to grow and evolve throughout their lives.

This practice is known as “sharenting,” and it’s become an unexpected byproduct of parenting in the age of social media. Parenting experts have hesitations and warnings about the potential problems sharenting may bring, however. Below, we tapped various experts for their advice on how parents can share their everyday lives while also protecting their child’s privacy and safety.

What Is Sharenting?

A survey published in the journal “Healthcare” in 2023, defines sharenting as the practice of sharing “photos, videos, personal stories, and other updates” about one’s child online. The term sharenting is precisely what it sounds like, and it’s a portmanteau of sharing and parenting. More specifically, it applies to parents who share the everyday lives of their kids and their typical activities, including “eating, sleeping, bathing, and playing.”

In most cases, however, children aren’t old enough to consent to have their images or stories told and shared with the masses, and they also aren’t old enough to understand the potential future issues that might come from private images or stories being told publicly.

Social media can be a tool for parents to connect with friends and family. It’s also a helpful outlet for parents looking for a sense of community for support or advice on raising kids. But the benefits of sharenting might not outweigh the drawbacks.

The Impact of Sharenting on Parents and Children

Sharenting primarily presents an ethical dilemma around consent. “Young children are not able to consent to what content is being shared online about them,” says Monika Roots, MD, a child psychiatrist and co-founder of Bend Health, a provider of pediatric mental health care for kids.

“Some parents post moments like potty training and temper tantrums, and while those are relatable parenting moments you may want to connect with others about, it can feel like a violation of a child’s privacy,” Dr. Roots tells POPSUGAR.

Most parents who share content online about their kids don’t intend for it to be harmful, but there are some unintended consequences of sharenting that parents are unknowingly bolstering, says Jolie Silva, PhD, a clinical psychologist and chief operating officer of New York Behavioral Health.

“Parents of this generation have mastered a cognition known as ‘social comparison,’ which is exactly what it sounds like – comparing yourself to others,” she says. This may, for example, manifest itself in a mom looking at photos another mom shared of her 2 year old sitting on the potty while she’s sharing the struggles of getting her 3 year old to give up her diapers. According to Dr. Silva, this cycle of comparison can have severe detrimental effects, including depression and anxiety.

Dr. Roots echoes this statement, saying that sharenting and comparison “can lead to a child developing anxiety and self-esteem issues, and they worry about what photos or videos of them have been posted online.” She says this can escalate as time passes, where a child may “feel like they have lost control over their privacy and even cause them not to feel safe.”

In addition to sharenting being detrimental to a child’s mental health, their physical safety could be at risk, Dr. Roots warns: “If you decide to post content of your child online for the general public to see, it’s important to leave out private details like where they go to school and what street or neighborhood you live in.”

How to Talk to Kids About Sharenting

For parents who do decide to frequently share family moments online, Dr. Roots says having an “open conversation” with children on what exactly is being shared online is an excellent place to start.

Dr. Roots suggests saying, “I’ve shared some photos of you online for our friends and family to see, and I want to know how that makes you feel. Let’s look at the photos together, and if you don’t want any of them to be shared, we’ll delete them.”

Dr. Roots adds, “This is also an opportunity to teach your children about tech literacy and internet safety. As they age and explore the world of social media, talk with them about the importance of being themselves and not comparing themselves to others online or needing to be perfect.”

Finding the Balance Between Sharenting and Protecting Privacy

For those struggling to balance sharing what they’d like to and protecting a child’s privacy, it’s best to reflect on some important questions. Before posting something involving a child, Dr. Silva suggests parents ask themselves the following:

  • Why do I post on social media?
  • What do I gain out of it?
  • Am I looking for validation? Attention? Recognition? Praise?
  • Would my child be embarrassed by this post at any point in life? If so, don’t post it.

“All of these things are OK,” Dr. Silva says, but it’s essential to be honest with yourself and your intentions. “Identify if they are healthy behaviors for you and your family, and if you decide to make a change, then commit and treat it like any other habit you want to break.”

Another way to find that balance is to be intentional and protective about who can see sharenting updates. “For parents navigating the balance between sharing their family life online and protecting their child’s privacy, I would advise them to consider a private social media account that only close friends and family can view,” Dr. Roots says. “This way, strangers on the internet or your child’s friends from school will not be able to view photos and videos of them, but you can still stay connected with loved ones.”

Related: What Does Modern Parenting Look Like? 23 Millennials Share Their Rules

Devan McGuinness (she/they) is a Canadian disabled writer, editor, and social strategist who covers politics, entertainment, parenting, and lifestyle. Devan has contributed to POPSUGAR, Fatherly, Parents, Scary Mommy, Mom.com, and more over her 10-plus years in digital media, specializing in stories that matter most to families.

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