sharenting and sexting

I’ve been thinking about the possible link between sexting (sending sexually explicit messages and/or photographs primarily between mobile phones) and sharenting (parents who blog, tweet and post pictures about all aspects of their children’s lives without regard for the their children’s privacy).

Given the proclivity of some parents to post everything about the lives of their children on line, I expect that they are modelling a laissez faire attitude toward boundaries about what to post on line and what to keep private.

In a Western culture and society that continually exploits the sexualization of girls and does not take seriously the sexual abuse and exploitation of girls and women, it’s no wonder that ‘tweens, teens and adult women cave to such pressure. And resistance to such pressure, I’m suggesting, may be more difficult when a girl’s parents, and most likely her mother, has been sharing the private elements of her daughter’s life through text and photos on line since she was a baby.

I understand that social media is here to stay and offers us the benefit of being able to communicate and be part of other people’s lives in positive ways. However, when the sharing of information, images and ideals that cast judgement and place individuals in harms way, whether through bullying, ostracization, or extreme embarrassment  that can lead to depression and in some cases suicide, we must think about and respond to the ill effects of the practices of sexting and sharenting.

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the ethics of ‘sharenting’

Nione Meakin’s recent May 18  2013 article in The Guardian ( http://www.guardian.co.uk/lifeandstyle/2013/may/18/pros-cons-of-sharenting) raises important questions about the long term effects on the children of parents who engage in ‘sharenting’, that is, posting embarrassing photos or stories about their children on Facebook. While she does ponder the psychological effects on children who are the subject of their parent’s blogs, her main objection is the number of baby photos that appear on Facebook.

I feel that Meakin missed an opportunity to raise issues related to parents exposing or invading their children’s privacy. Rather than speak about the fear one mom has of ‘coming across as mumsy and unprofessional’ I would have liked to have seen Meakin delve into the concern the same mother had about compromising her child’s safety.

Of less concern to Meakin is crossing the privacy boundary that many sharenting bloggers do when they expose details about their children’s lives that are private, embarrassing or potentially damaging digital footprints that can never be erased. Like psychologist Aric Sigman, I think we need to be aware of the ways in which social media negatively interferes with the process of identity formation, which involves having private information about one’s self remain private.

Unfortunately, the issue of who is telling whose story continues to be overlooked in this article.