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BY RUTH KEDIKILWE
The internet has taken the wisecrack “Age ain’t nothing but a number” to another level. Just take a stroll down the streets of social media pages and you are likely to find yourself in the company of children who can barely talk or walk. Welcome to sharenting, another social phenomenon bequeathed to us by the internet.
Anyone with a child, the internet and a Smartphone is possibly guilty of a little sharenting, a very controversial issue raising global debate on the rights and the safety of children whose digital identity is spewed all over the internet. The (p)sharents are relentless with their posts and they literally post everything, sleeping patterns, first steps, first words, first day at school, and right down to their bowel movements.
How far can parents celebrate their children’s milestones on social media without over-sharing? Social Worker turned child psychologist Same Keleepile explained that though sharenting has over the years gained momentum and has somewhat been socially accepted the biggest problem remains over sharing. “Whatever goes on to the internet is there to stay and by the time the children come of age, appropriate to actually be on social media they already have a digital identity. Therefore it is imperative that parents are wary of what they post to avoid stuff that is too personal or embarrassing,’ she said.
Keleepile further stated that sharenting has a huge privacy risk and that in this digital era they face the possibility of digital kidnapping (other people downloading pictures of the child and pretending as if it is their own child. Keleepile noted that it is important to be extra careful when dealing with school going children since their classmates may come across the pictures and ridicule them at school. Children also run the risk of being trolled, bullied by adults online because of their physical features, “Imagine growing up to find an old picture of yourself turned into a meme captioned ‘ugliest baby ever’ it would have detrimental side effects,” she said.
In 2017, The United Nations Children's Fund (UNICEF) released a report titled ‘State of the World's Children’ report which states that, ”Parents over-sharing information about their children is nothing new. However, today’s digital lifestyle can take it to a new level, turning parents into ‘potentially the distributors of information about their children to mass audiences.’ Such ‘sharenting’, which is becoming more and more common, can harm a child’s reputation. It can create potentially serious results in an economy where individuals’ online histories may increasingly outweigh their credit histories in the eyes of retailers, insurers and service providers. Parents’ lack of awareness can cause damage to a child’s well-being when these digital assets depict a child without clothing, as they can be misused by child sex offenders. It can also harm child well-being in the longer term by interfering with children’s ability to self-actualize, create their own identity and find employment.”
It is further indicated in the report that smartphones continue to fuel the ‘Bedroom Culture’ and that child predators have more access to children due to sharenting as some parents go as far as sharing not only the pictures of their young ones but their locations as well.
As it is sharenting has now gone beyond being solely a moral issue but has also morphed into a public health and children’s issue and has raised mixed opinions regarding the dos and don’ts.
The reality is that there has been an immense transformation of human life brought about by digital technology over the years and childhood has not been spared therefore before sharing the princess looking pretty in pink consider the implications it could have on the child and their future.