Sharenting: Don’t share your children!

The term “Sharenting” is attributed to the Wall Street Journal which published several articles on the subject in the year 2013. Since then, the problems associated with sharenting continue to increase. This is mainly due to ignorance, but especially to the lack of responsibility of parents in the use of digital technology and virtual environments. Specifically, the term arises from a merger between the words “Over-sharing” and “Parenting.” It refers to the fact of sharing photos and videos of our sons and daughters in the internet, in both, a non appropriate and exaggerated way. The term is born because a series of serious problems have been detected; but also because it negatively affects the lives of our sons and daughters, increasing their vulnerability and lack of protection.

According to the NOMINET report published at the end of 2016, before our children turn 5, we will be able to find almost 1,500 images and videos of them in different applications and virtual Internet networks such as Facebook, Instagram and Twitter. This is the equivalent to uploading an average of 300 images and videos each year, per child.

Another reason why this issue is discussed is Divorce. In this process, the problem arises when one of the parties photo-manipulation-1941835_640decides to publish all kinds of photographs and videos to “record” the things and activities they do with their children. The purpose can be very perverse, since it only seeks to undervalue the other party, using the Internet to display the good father, or good mother, that is. Being parents implies to begin with, to keep in mind what intimacy and privacy mean, as well as provide security. The approach is therefore totally flawed. On the one hand, (certainly in Spain, in other countries it should be the same) unless a judge dictates otherwise, parental custody is exercised jointly by both parents, so everything that has to do with the images of the minor must be consensual. But in addition, the slogan that is used to train children in Internet security, should apply to adults:

Think before you post!

Another problem that arises from this activity has to do with bullying. To see a clear example we go back to the year 2007. Parents of an 11 year old posted a video in YouTube, showing the child in an embarrassing situation. This could be interpreted as funny, but also as ridiculous and mocking. As the video and the reaction of the little one was known, people began to share it and to make fun of him. As a result, the child was a victim of bullying. The “guilt” was not of the school, but of the parents who published it, leaving the door open for anyone to use it. He was a minor, whose image must always be protected. Surely the parents did not think about it, but precisely that is the main problem we have with the things we do and publish and share on the Internet … we do not think.

Legal and Personal Consequences

In France, under the privacy laws, parents are responsible for protecting the images of their children. In particular, they can face a one-year prison sentence, and fines of 45.000€ for publishing intimate details of the lives of others without their consent (including their children). Recently the Gendarmerie (French national police) launched a campaign of warnings about the high danger of pedophiles that are nourished of the online photographs posted by the family, to select children who will be their target. They even forced to take pictures of nude children that the parents had uploaded to different media.

An 18-year-old Austrian girl sued her parents for “violating her privacy” with photos of her childhood uploaded to Facebook. The girl had asked repeatedly to erase the more than 500 photos that her parents had uploaded to this network, sharing them with more than 700 contacts. She said she was tired of her parents not taking her seriously

The Digital Kidnapping consists of stealing pictures of children from their relatives’ networks – especially if code-707069_640they are babies – to create false profiles and organize role-playing games in which these children can be “adopted”. The most perverted versions include sexually detailed descriptions. The app mostly used for this purpose is Instagram (with more than 60,000 photos under #babyrp), and although some of these accounts have been removed, others are still open. These activities have been detected since 2014 and are increasing as more and more children under the age of 13 have their photos and videos on the Internet … published by their parents.

“Morphing” is another practice closely related to the prior that has been extended especially in child pornography networks. It is about making photomontage or videos mixing the bodies of the girls who are victims of exploitation, with the faces of our daughters, all intended to offer child pornographic material. It is related to the previous one because the images of our daughters are robbed of the virtual networks of the parents, emphasizing in this case the images of Facebook. In fact, research shows that many of these photos end up in pages related to pedophilia (we will discuss this issue next month)

Preventive Tips: Privacy and Intimacy

Since it seems that we are losing the notion of intimacy, (we will address this in the same post) we will focus on technological issues. Usually we don’t configure the Privacy Settings (from the devices, applications, or virtual networks we use), as we assume that the default settings are appropriate. This is a problem because in addition some platforms include clauses of assignment of rights (that we do not read, nor we read the ones related to the age of majority for its use). These clauses allow companies to use the photos or videos that we upload to that platform, for their own purposes, as to sell them too.

According to one study, 80% of the adults surveyed believe that when tagging several friends in a photo, only them and no one else can see it; and only 10% felt “safe” with privacy tools. Actually, although we have our privacy options for “only friends” (and here we could enter the debate of who these “friends” are), we do not know if they follow our same privacy policy, and maybe our photos are public once they reach their walls. We found that 85% of parents surveyed have not reviewed Facebook’s privacy settings, and 79% think that no stranger can see photos of their children. The reality is that you do not know who can get the photos of your children, or if their physical integrity could be at stake.

Never upload pictures that show the details of the life of your children, such as activities, schedules, school, your car plate, street name or number of your home, etc. Since from these elements, they are easily traceable.

Would you leave the door to your house and the windows open when you go to work or on vacation?

Would you leave your  car parked with the keys inside and with the engine on?

Surely not, because of security. The same happens with the photos and videos that you upload to the Internet. They are the open door to your house, your car with the engine on, it is the life of your children.

Respect and Protect. Think before you post.


This video from the National Center for Missing & Exploited Children was published in 2008 to make children understand about the dangers of sharing and publishing… now maybe parents should think about it too.

Author: Dr. Gonzalo Torquemada

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