Kids are not props or toys to be exploited at parents’ discretion. Children are human beings who must be cared for and cherished for a lifetime. When a person decides to have a child, they must change everything in their lives to support this young life, no exceptions.
Yet, this does not stop some parents from doing so in a manner that is reminiscent of a beloved familial tradition: Documenting your kids’ life journeys.
Most families have some record of their lives. Whether it be a photo album, video library, keepsake, or souvenir, these are perfectly valid ways to keep the memories of each generation alive for as long as possible. However, our social media driven, present day has twisted the collection of treasured memories into a spectacle.
“Sharenting” is the documentation of childhood milestones and other memorable moments on social media. These moments may be the firsts in a child’s life, embarrassments that some would prefer to be kept buried, or even events that might be traumatic for children but hilarious to the parent that they “simply must” share this clip. Pictures and videos can be shared across whatever sites the parents choose, sites that can be accessed by anybody.
“Sharenting” has become a genre in and of itself. There are thousands of videos where people detail their daily personal lives, experiences, and stories. Family vlogging does the same thing, but with a focus on parents raising children. Such practices are highly exploitative of childrens’ private lives.
Vlogs are all about what gets the most views and clicks. This maximizes what can be extracted from monetized videos, particularly if the content is deemed “gawk-worthy.” Therefore, if a video of a child throwing an over-the-top tantrum or embarrassing themselves in a spectacular way gets posted with an eye-catching thumbnail and an enticing title, voila, engagement ensues.
When these moments are broken down to their base components of vulnerability and naivety, oversharing such online is an awful thing to do to a child as it does nothing more than exploit real, human emotions for views. Exposing a child’s vulnerable moments like that on a global scale can, and will, negatively impact their emotional development, mental health, and social relations.
Many challenges older influencers and child celebrities experience from their high-profile platforms such as trolling, parasocial relationships, and safety threats, have driven them to distress. Imagine how a child or teenager would react to these challenges. The effects would be deeply ingrained and leave a detrimental impact on the child.
Influencer parents are a new breed of stage parents. They profit off their children but in a way where they are also on stage, just not the prime focus. We should not be rewarding such parents with online engagement. Rather, we should refuse to play along with their attention-seeking games. The desire to share is a powerful one, but it should not be done when it can lead to hurting someone else.
Sharing personal anecdotes and select details online is not a problem when done safely and responsibly. “Sharents” throw caution to the wind for clout and cash at the expense of children who have little power in protecting their privacy and autonomy. It is up to parents to do their due diligence by giving their children spaces where they can make mistakes and learn lessons away from prying eyes. This should not be a difficult concept to grasp. Raising healthy children means granting them the dignity of privacy.