In spite of being a blogger for nearly six years and regularly using the blog and social media to share photos and stories about my children, I only recently discovered the term ‘sharenting’. Sharenting is the term now used to describe people who regularly share photos online of their children and their antics through social media and blogs. People like me. But there are lots of people doing it. Blogger and non-bloggers alike are now in the habit of sharing those funny, cute, silly moments online.
But is sharenting a bad thing?
If you had asked me that question a few months ago I would have laughed and said: “of course not”. For me, both my blog and my Instagram account were set up to collect memories. I had no idea how my blog would evolve and become more commercial all those years ago. It was somewhere to record those funny moments, to keep those silly stories and the funny things they said. Instagram was a place to keep all of those special photos.
But as my blog grew more popular and the children grew older, the game changed. It was a natural evolution and one that has benefitted us all enormously.
A few weeks ago, I was interviewed by a journalist all about the subject of sharenting. She was interested to know why I blogged and shared photos on social media. She asked me how the children felt about it. Then she asked me if I had considered the long-term consequences it might have on the children. I will be honest and say that I had never really thought about the long term consequences and the question made me feel suddenly uneasy.
As the kids are older now, we talk a lot about the blog and what I share. With the teen in particular, as he is now active online, I only share photos of him if he agrees. I am happy with that as I don’t want to embarrass him. My tween isn’t often in photos but isn’t really online yet and doesn’t mind me sharing things. My daughter, being 7, has never known a time when I didn’t blog, so she is used to photos being shared and often watches me put posts together.
But would all of this affect them in the future?
I really hadn’t thought about it. It is a collection of memories. I tried to convince myself that they benefitted from it so much that it couldn’t be a bad thing. How could it have a negative impact on them other than to look back on it like I did and smile?
I’m not totally naive. The digital footprint made is mine. I don’t name them on the blog and I do regularly check to make sure that their names aren’t linked to any of my accounts or photos. It is all linked to me. When I started blogging, I made the conscious decision to use photos of the children but it wasn’t a decision that was made lightly. I know that quite a few parenting bloggers, blog anonymously very successfully and I think it is great. Other bloggers who use names and give lots of information. I am somewhere in the middle and up until now, I have been quite happy with my decision and my blog.
The conversation went to the back of my mind as life suddenly became really hectic. But there was this niggling doubt that I couldn’t quite manage to shake.
Could it be affecting them already?
This week, the teen came home from school and I could see that he was upset. There is a lot going on at the moment, he is in his last half term at his current school, he has had lots of exams, he has horrendous hayfever and he has had a few niggles at school. I wasn’t quite prepared for what came next.
Last year in an IT lesson, he had wanted to find something that I had blogged about and he showed his friends my blog. When he typed Stressy Mummy into Google images, there were lots of photos of him when he was younger. They all had a laugh about it. When he told me, I did say that maybe it wasn’t a good idea to draw attention to it. I know he is quite proud of my blog but I also know how teenagers can be. This week when they had been working on the computers, one of his sillier friends remembered and found a load of photos and showed everyone. It all got a bit out of hand with lots of kids doing the same and passing it on and he was really embarrassed.
On Instagram, I don’t usually allow the boys’ friends to follow me apart from a couple that I know really well. Suddenly I was inundated with a lot of his friends and kids from his year following my account. I felt awful. He was upset and I felt responsible. I made my Instagram account private and said to him that I would take the photos from my blog.
Deleting photos from my Instagram was really tough. They are my memories, funny moments when the boys were young, mostly rubbish quality but back then it didn’t matter. The teen was happier and he said that he was okay about the blog photos as the dust would settle.
However, he goes to high school in September and I really don’t want this to happen again. So over the next few weeks, I will be going through my blog and taking away some of the photos. Not all of them, but certainly any that I think might embarrass him and hopefully, the Google search will be more general photos from the blog.
Coupled with the comments from that journalist, I am rethinking my version of sharenting. My Instagram is different now and to be honest I share more flowers than photos of the children these days. I will still use photos of them and share them on Instagram. But I will talk to them first and I will think about how the photo might look in a few years time.
So is sharenting really a bad thing?
I still think no, on the whole. Like most things in life, there needs to be a balance. Our children may be young and cute now but they all grow up to have their own online presence. They might not be happy about those photos of them with pooey nappies or sleeping with their siblings then. This week’s events have definitely made me warier. I certainly will, from now on, be thinking about the consequences before I share anything else.
What do you think?
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