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Think About 'Sharenting'

The risks far outweigh the momentary pleasure that sharing your kids' photos online gives

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You’re at a neighbourhood kids’ birthday party or at your child’s school football match or heck, even a visit to the mall nearby. You snap a photo of your kid doing something adorable, and before you can say “Instagram”, you’re posting the photo to the world at large for all your friends and family to see.

Of course, this doesn’t bother you. You, and hundreds of millions of parents like you, have already uploaded countless images of your kids to social platforms, some from the day they were born.

Yet, have you ever given it a bit of thought that maybe it shouldn’t be? Stop to think — does it not reflect a rather careless approach to the child’s online privacy that they don’t have a say what photos of theirs go online simply because they aren’t adults yet? Is that not a worthwhile consideration?

As a parent of a child of school going age, I’ve tried over the past couple of years to explain, maybe even rationalise, to friends why I don’t share photos of my child on social media (save for one yearly update), and why they shouldn’t overshare each moment of their child’s life to all and sundry on their social feeds. I’m met with reactions ranging from “why not share the joy” to “why are you so paranoid”. Is ‘sharenting’ as it is now dubbed so bad?

The trouble is both with the medium and the reach your photos enjoy. Concerns over Facebook’s handling of personal information crop up every other week, with big breaches and slip-ups serving as a constant reminder that both Facebook and subsidiary Instagram are simply unable to effectively police and protect all the user data they have collected over the years, despite their best intents. How does one convince oneself that these images and personally identifiable data will not be used to classify, identify and monetise these children? I mean, isn’t profiling and tracking the firm’s entire business model? Is Facebook the sort of corporate you’d want handling your child’s digital life story and to be a steward of their online privacy? Recent events suggest caution.

And then there’s the matter of security. With many Facebook users adding ‘barely knowns’ to their ‘friends’ list and not revising their online privacy settings (or not knowing how to), photos have a way of being overshared beyond the circle of close family and friends. Now, we know there are terrible people out there, and even if there isn’t a thread around every nook of the Internet, do you really feel safe that your kids’ most intimate moments — those with personally identifiable information such as school uniforms, home addresses and other otherwise closely guarded data — is in the public domain? The risks far outweigh the momentary pleasure that each ‘like’ will ever get you. Think about it.

Finally, consider the aspect of consent. If the child is old enough to know what you're talking about, asking for consent is never a bad idea. Online photos are forever. So, ask your child (or yourself, if they’re too young) if (s)he would be comfortable with these pictures being online 10-20 years from now. Chances are, you’ll likely consider reevaluating your relationship with your social media platform of choice to prioritise the ones that you love.

Disclaimer: The views expressed in the article above are those of the authors' and do not necessarily represent or reflect the views of this publishing house. Unless otherwise noted, the author is writing in his/her personal capacity. They are not intended and should not be thought to represent official ideas, attitudes, or policies of any agency or institution.

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Tushar Kanwar

The author is Technology Columnist and Program Manager in Bengaluru, India

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