How to Avoid Sharenting

How to Avoid “Sharenting.” A Guide to your Child’s Privacy Online

It’s almost like a rite of passage – a child gets his or her own smartphone. Years ago, it was when a child was lucky enough to get the keys to borrow  a parent’s car – but always heard the message,  “you’d better be home by 10pm!” Today, things are a bit different. If a child and his or her parent has a smartphone, chances are they’re both using social media. It’s not surprising, considering that half of the world’s population posts on social media. And that’s where the problems can start.

So, what is “sharenting?” It’s when a parent posts far too many photos and stories about their child online. Whether it’s TikTok, Facebook, Instagram or any other social media site, parents just love to post photos of “little Johnny” playing soccer, or “Jill” riding her bike in the park. They also like to post information about birthday parties, trips, school accolades and a lot more. Years ago, it was having your child sit down at the piano and play something for everyone in the room. But that’s the difference – now, when a parent wants to show off their child, thanks to social media, the whole world is privy to the stories and the images.

When is it Too Much?

The problem with sharenting is that it’s often done far too much. And while there’s no pat answer to “how much is too much,” many experts state that parents should think before they post. Here’s why: it’s a crazy world that we live in, and many people use photos of kids for nefarious purposes. In addition, posting stories about the kids can reveal far too much personal information, which can lead to problems like identity theft.

Sharenting is a term that was coined by the Wall Street Journal back in 2012. More recent studies have shown there are many negative downsides to sharenting. First, as they grow, kids develop a need for privacy, There’s no specific age when children develop this need – it’s different for every child. But children as young as 4 have expressed unhappiness when they found out that a parent has posted a photo of them without asking.

The older they get, the more it becomes a problem. Teens are particularly annoyed by their parents posting habits. One survey by Microsoft found that 42% of teens disapproved of their parents posting information or photos of them on social media. That’s almost half of all teens, and yet parents continue to follow this practice.

Here’s another issue: everyone on social media has access to those photos, and they can re-post them as well. Which they often do! That means a lot of people are seeing pictures or reading stories of your kids that were never intended to see them.

Bigger Problems with Posting

Here’s where the dark side of posting comes into play. Sadly, many pedophiles go through social media sites to steal photos of young kids – mostly beach or bath photos, but others as well. One study found that almost half of pictures on pedophile websites were stolen from social media – innocent posting by parents that ended up on those disgusting websites. It’s not a place where you want your child seen.

Another problem is many parents think because social media has a privacy policy things will stay private. That couldn’t be further from the truth. Even when privacy settings are placed properly on social media, people can find a way around them. Also, when grandparents or friends start reposting pictures of children, all bets are off regarding privacy issues.

The other major problem with all the information and photos that are posted about kids is that it can lead to identity theft. Here’s why: there are people who compile complete profiles of children and sell that data to people search sites, who make that information and data available to anyone over the age of 18.

Once the cyberthieves have access to all of this information – everything from the children’s names, birthdays, addresses, parent’s information and more, they can easily find additional key data like Social Security numbers and more that will easily lead to identity theft. As adults we’re all aware of protecting our own data, but we also have to be vigilant about our kids’ data as well.

What Parents can Do

Before posting, parents should ask themselves whether they would tell strangers about the information they’re about to post. Most times, the answer would be “no,”  and if you can’t tell someone – then don’t post it either. It’s really that simple, yet most parents don’t follow that protocol when posting.

If information about your kids is already out there, it needs to be removed from all of those people search sites, which include Instant Checkmate, 411 Background Check, Zaba Search and many others. Unfortunately, if you’re planning on doing this yourself, it’s easier said than done. The reason is that there are over 100 different people search sites where information about your children is located, and each one has their own rules and methods for removing that data and opting out.

This could take weeks upon weeks of hard work to do  manually. A much better alternative is to use OneRep, a robust tool that will find every one of the people search sites and remove the private information – automatically.

Be sure to advise friends and family not to repost any photos or stories about your children, explaining that too many other people will start having access to your private information. An even better option than posting photos is to create private photo albums on iCloud or Google, sending links to family or friends so they can view the images without worrying about who else might be seeing them.

By following these recommendations and using caution whenever information is shared, your child will remain safe and his or her information will remain private.

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