From this post you’ll learn how to be a responsible parent also in the online world, and how to respect your child’s privacy.

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What is sharenting and why does it matter?

The international literature calls it sharenting, a phenomenon where parents shape their children's online identities in the early years of their lives, long before the kids take their first steps online. The online space can be an outlet for our joy, pride or even our social standing, but the way in which we present ourselves has serious consequences.

According to a 2018 study, the average Generation Y member (i.e., born in the 1980s and early 1990s) has around 107 images of themselves posted online before they can even walk, and this content can carry more risks than we might think. Before we share anything online, it is important to remember that content posted on the web can (unfortunately) not be permanently deleted or traced. And when we share our children's data, in addition to our own personal information, we also leave them vulnerable to threats such as peer bullying, phishing or identity theft. There are also child predators who hunt for content online that specifically depicts children. The Internet Hotline, run by the Hungarian National Media and Infocommunications Authority (NMHH), which monitors and takes action against illegal content harmful to minors, in 2020 received a total of 1,765 reports on misuse of children focused content. Around 40.2 percent of these reports were related to child pornography, which was due to the increased online presence caused by the coronavirus.

What can I do as a parent?

To protect our children, we need to be aware of some basic rules when it comes to our online presence. One is to always delete the metadata before posting images or videos. But what exactly does this mean? Thanks to modern technology, we can now capture and store almost any kind of information on our digital devices, and our mobile phones are no exception. This means that when you take a picture or a video, your mobile phone often automatically stores not only the picture but also information about when, where, who and with what device it was taken. If you don't want your phone to gather this information, it's best to turn off the recording in your device's settings. However, if you have previously used these settings, you shouldn't be alarmed. We can now easily “clean” our pictures and videos before posting them on the internet, thanks to some free online tools, e.g. MetaClean by adarsus. In addition to deleting metadata, it is important to ask for your child's consent before posting images and, if you can, to share the content regarding your child with your immediate family rather via mailing system (such as Gmail or WhatsApp) that is more private.

We have a big role to play in the development of minors' self-image and identity, as our actions serve as models of how to behave for them. Let's educate and inform them about what we do online and why, so that they can use the internet in a conscious and responsible way in the future.

author: Loretta Szabo, Mertek Media Monitor