When your child is sick and you're not sure what's ailing him, where's the first place you turn for answers? If you answered Facebook or some other form of social media, than you may be guilty of "sharenting," the new term used to describe parents who share info about their family and kids on the Internet. You may be doing it without even realizing it. And that's not necessarily a bad thing — as long as you take a few simple precautions.
As a mom of two daughters, a blogger, and an avid social media user, I've done my fair share of sharenting. From double-checking school schedules, to finding support when kids are sick to asking about the best ways to help kids sleep through the night, sharenting is a great way to get access to a wide variety of information on an even wider variety of topics. No matter how strange your situation may seem, throw it out there on the Web and you will find kindred spirits who know exactly what you're going through.
According to the University of Michigan C.S. Mott Children's Hospital National Poll on Children's Health, more than half of mothers and one-third of fathers discuss their child's health and their own parenting issues on social media. Almost three-quarters of parents surveyed stated that social media makes them feel less alone.
Feeling less alone when parenting is a good thing, particularly when you're dealing with situations aren't what's happening in your immediate real-life community. A child with cancer. The loss of a spouse. A child with learning disabilities — these situations can make a parent feel isolated. But online, a parent can find myriad parents going through the exact same thing. That kind of support and information sharing can be invaluable to parents from all walks of life.
But sharenting is not limited to parents struggling through difficult situations. Every day, parents connect with their online communities to share info and pictures about their kids' lost teeth or temper tantrums or good grades. It's how friends and family stay in touch.
So how do you know when sharenting has gone too far? “By the time children are old enough to use social media themselves many already have a digital identity created for them by their parents,” says Sarah J. Clark, M.P.H., associate director of the University of Michigan C.S. Mott Children’s Hospital National Poll on Children’s Health.
According to the poll, half of all parents surveyed think their children might be embarrassed by things they have posted about them, and two-thirds of parents worry that the information and photos they have shared might affect their child's privacy. Three-quarters of parents polled also claimed that they have seen oversharing from other parents who have posted embarrassing stories or photos or offered information that could identify a child’s location or daily routine.
So how can you take advantage of the positives of sharenting without falling prey to its pitfalls? The key is to use common sense about the information and photos you're posting about your child. That embarrassing story may seem funny now, but will it humiliate your kid in high school? Or hurt his chances of getting a job? Also, are you sharing too much information about your child's comings and goings ... such as the school, baby sitter's name, and/or play areas?
If you have a strong online network of friends and family, sharenting is an easy way to stay in touch. And as long as you are respectful of your kids and cautious about the specifics of what you're sharing, it can serve as a parenting lifeline for sharing both the joys and challenges of family life.
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