The year is 2040. Jane Doe is interviewing for the position of her dreams. The hiring manager starts:
“Jane, great resume. You have just the expertise we’re looking for.”
“Just one question though.”
Uh oh, Jane panics.
“Can you please explain what’s going on in this photo from 2020 on your mother’s Instagram account? You seem to be wearing a… New York Jets Jersey? Yeah, we don’t really endorse that kind of behavior at this company.”
And just like that, all of Jane’s hopes and dreams shatter before her. A postmodern tragedy.
Sharenting. Sharing while parenting. Parents who share photos of their children online.
Sure, that Halloween pic of Timmy poppin’ some candy corn in a ninja turtle mask is endearing and totally adorable. But is that what he’ll think 10 years from now?
According to a report by the Family Online Safety Institute, 76% of teens are concerned about their privacy or about being harmed by online activity. Moreover, with more colleges and employers checking out the online identities of their potential students and employees, respectively, this kind of online protection is of the utmost importance.
Although research shows that most parents use social media for parenting-related information and support, many offer the private details of their children’s lives to facilitate discussion of these topics. According to a recent Pew Research Center study, about half of mothers and about a third of fathers share information about their kids online, much of which could be considered embarrassing.
Beyond the embarrassing photos, parents who share photos of their children give up some of their rights to privacy. While a photo of a child in a Halloween costume may seem inoffensive, making that photo available to online platforms opens up the child to potential privacy violations. This may include identity fraud through face recognition software that will likely advance as the child ages. It also sacrifices that child’s right to anonymity, leaving an electronic footprint of a child’s location and affiliations that could be abused by certain agencies in the future.
Although there may be no ill intention in these posts and parents simply want to publicly appreciate their children, there may be negative effects of oversharing (or over-“sharenting”). Taking family pictures to preserve memories is one thing, but posting them online can have unforeseen consequences.
Before we post a photo on the perma-net (the internet is forever!), we should think about whether or not or kid would appreciate it making a surprise appearance at the job interview of their dreams.