DENVER – While you won’t find the term “sharenting” in the dictionary, you will find plenty of examples on any social media platform.
The word is used to describe parents who overshare pictures and information about their children on social media.
Besides gaining a few likes, and possibly some “unfollows,” experts tell Denver7 there is much more to consider before parents choose to post.
“It's a closed group, so we have to invite the members,” Rachel Stephens said. “It actually can't even be searched for on Facebook.”
Stephens and her husband have 2½-year-old twins. The toddlers were born at 25-weeks and were up against some serious medical complications.
She and her husband made the decision early on, not to publicly post about their children. Instead, the two used the private Facebook group to keep long-distant family members in the loop.
This is a privacy measure not very many make.
A University of Florida study found 92 percent of kids under the age of 2-years-old already have a digital footprint.
“The question becomes one of, you know, there's an inherent conflict between parents who have a right to publish and children who have a right to privacy,” Dr. Lynn Schofield Clark told Denver7.
Dr. Clark works in the University of Denver’s Media, Film and Journalism Studies department.
She’s studied and has written literature on “sharenting.”
This is privacy Clark said could play a crucial role in your child’s development, and actions that could potentially cause serious future issues like identity theft, anxiety, stalking and bullying.
Dr. Clark added, “I think where it becomes problematic is when parents make decisions that are funny to them, but turn out to be embarrassing for young people.”
It’s also a problem when parents don’t realize what they’re posting.
The same study found more than 45 percent of Facebook posts that involved pictures of children, mentioned the child by name. It also reports more than 6 percent of posts referenced a child’s birthday.
Parents who choose to keep their posts limited and private told Denver7 they’ve come across posts that share intimate moments that shouldn't be shared publicly.
“I see parents sharing everything from potty-training pictures,” Stephens said. “We don't really share naked baby photos, but some parents will do that.”
Popularity of this sharenting trend has increased as millennials, who grew up with the internet, begin to have children.
Also, parents who posted about their kid’s years ago, now have pre-teens who are now aware about what kind of material was posted.
“What’s happening now is that those young people who were pictured, and whose information was shared, are now growing into the age where they’re conscious of it,” Dr. Clark said, “And we’re realizing they have a digital footprint that goes back a long way.”
Dr. Clark said that simply ordering parents not to share anything about their children publicly is extreme and unrealistic.
Instead, she shared, “If you’re a parent, think about when you were 13-years-old, and now think about what you wish your parents had shared or not shared online about you.”
Neither Stephens nor Clark sees an end in sight for this sharenting trend.
“But that's also a reason why we need to think about how we want our children to grow in this environment. And how they need to be able to know they have rights that they can protect too,” Clark added.
Clark said she doesn't see the digital age as detrimental.
“There’s a real upside to being able to share information and to share love through social media with our extended families,” she added.
This is precisely why mom, Rachel Stephens, chose to create a private Facebook group.
“I am an oversharer, but with people who want to be shared with,” Stephens said.