Is it really safe to share family snaps online or does it put your children at risk of abuse? Five VERY opinionated mothers debate the pros and cons of ‘sharenting’

291AAA9A00000578-3098826-image-a-6_1432720050494From taking their first steps to starting school, sharing the big and not so big moments in a child’s life on social media is a growing trend in modern parenting.

Dubbed ‘sharenting’, the flood of photos begins in the delivery room and continues well beyond the teenage years.

But is the trend as harmless as it appears? Although, according to a US poll, 84 per cent of mothers and 70 per cent of fathers do it, critics worry that it could be putting children at risk.

And the concerns aren’t confined to the experts, with the same poll revealing that 68 per cent of parents were worried about other internet users viewing or sharing images of their children.

Psychologist and biologist Aric Sigman, has written extensively on the health implications of excessive screen time in children, but believes the issue is just as relevant for parents.

‘There are good things that can come from using a social tool to aid you in a healthy way,’ he explains, ‘but it seems to be displacing a lot of social face to face interaction.’

Sharenting, he continues, is a form of social comparison. ‘Previously people would do that with real people who lived nearby, but on Facebook you can big yourself up to anyone you want and people use it as a social marketing tool.

‘It is the virtual version of keeping up with the Joneses – but it isn’t the same. It leaves out a lot of nuances that might not go missing if you were speaking to your friend on the phone.

‘One effect is competitiveness which leaves some people feeling like winners and others like losers.’

While he says it doesn’t hurt to use social media to keep in touch, the father-of-four warns that a balance needs to be struck.

‘There’s nothing wrong with using social networking to do what you used to do with an envelope and a stamp, like sending images of your baby to your loved ones, but what can be a tool also ends up being a burden if it’s misused or over-used.

‘We need to get the balance right. Screen time is a form of consumption, just like salt, sugar or anything else, so we should think carefully about the amount of our consumption.’

So is he right about the risks or overstating the dangers? Five mothers give their verdict on the rise of sharenting.

FOR: Working mother Sarah Linton-Walls, 33, is divorced and lives with her son Jesse, three, in Bedford

‘Before Jesse was born I joined a private Facebook group called Monster Mummies for women who were all expecting around the same time.

If I think back to the beginning, it was such a comfort to have loads of other mums to chat to and so much more useful than any book or website.

I’ve been through everything with them: from pregnancy to a difficult birth and recovery, through the sleepless nights, going back to work, toddlerhood, illnesses, the breakdown of my relationship and advice on stuff like behaviour and holidays.

I don’t feel like I’m being judged and can ask silly parenting questions without feeling like an idiot in that closed forum.

Although I haven’t met them all, some of these women have become really good friends. In fact, I recently stayed with one mum who I’ve become particularly close to while on holiday in South Africa.

I’m selective with who I accept as friends am also quite careful with my security settings. I rarely post more than once a week and that is often to the mums group rather than my general profile, as it’s more relevant to them and less boring for everyone else.

It might be a photo of somewhere we’ve been, or perhaps something funny that my son has said or done.

Overall, Facebook has been invaluable to me as a first-time parent. I’m sure I would have made different decisions or approached things differently had I not had the monster mummies to talk to first.

AGAINST: Teacher Esther Bitan 28, from Manchester, rarely shares information about her two children online

I recently had my second baby and people have been constantly asking me to share pictures of her on Instagram, Facebook, Whatsapp or wherever and I don’t like it.

My son is three-and-a-half now and I’m a bit more relaxed about him, though I still won’t post every detail of his life.

I don’t see the point in constantly sharing pictures of my children’s lives. It worries me where a photo might end up as once it’s online anyone can get hold of it. Pictures can then be stored and passed on without my knowledge.

I do use Facebook groups a lot for advice and tips about parenting. I find these really useful and use them to ask questions and get feedback about different baby products, medical issues or other things related to my children.

I try to steer away from young mummy competitiveness where women share every minor detail and are obsessed with whose baby reached the next milestone first. It’s ridiculous and there is definitely an element of bragging involved.

My son talked and sang from a very young age but toilet trained fairly late. I also think people should be a bit more sensitive to friends who might be offended by so much information and pictures of your little tots.

I don’t want to make people feel jealous or resentful. These is definitely a buzz that people get when their friends ‘like’ their pictures or leave comments or emojis.

I guess I can be a bit guilty of this too at times, but you won’t find me endlessly updating about my children in order to achieve that.

FOR: ICU nurse Mel Fernandez, 32, from Manchester, lives in Abu Dhabi with her husband Lee and their two children. She relies on social media to stay in touch with family and friends

My husband Lee came out to Abu Dhabi for six weeks before us for work, so during that time, so we used Skype and Facebook to stay in touch. When I take the kids back to Manchester this summer, we’ll do the same again.

I was always quite into social media, but I’m definitely using it a lot more now to keep in touch.

We also have a private Facebook group about our time here for people we are close to. It’s been great for sharing things like videos of my daughter’s second birthday and my baby when he started to crawl.

Even my gran sees what we’re up to through Facebook! She doesn’t have a computer, but once a week a neighbour and family friend invites her over to show her our pictures.

One of my friends here put a video up of a local man chasing a camel on the motorway. It’s really funny and went viral, but then she found out that what she did was illegal.

I don’t think anything will come of it, but you do have to be respectful about what you do here in Abu Dhabi.

I know quite a few people who refuse to put pictures of their kids up which is their choice. My settings are quite private and I would never put pictures up of the kids in the bath or of me breast-feeding.

Also, our situation is slightly different because we’re living so far away. Through social media our family can keep up-to-date with our adventures and also watch the children growing up. 

FOR: Romanian-born Ramona, 35, from north London, uses Facebook to update her large international family about her baby daughter Catherine

My husband and I are from Romania and we live in north London with our six-month-old daughter. Every day I chat to my mother on Facebook so she can get her daily dose of her granddaughter.

My husband is one of 14 children and they live all over the world. One of his sisters created a closed family group a while back and since then we have used it to stay in touch almost daily; it’s been invaluable.

There were four babies born in the family last year and there are 18 children in the family overall, so by the time we meet up in Romania this summer we’ll feel like we really know each other’s sons and daughters.

Otherwise, I don’t tend to put much about my daughter on my general profile. I posted a few pictures of her baby dedication service in church back in February, but that was because a lot of people couldn’t be there.

I would hate to think people were reading updates about my daughter and thinking ‘there she goes again’.

I see women who literally post every day, or even several times a day. I’m very proud of my daughter, I love her and I have loads of nice pictures of her, but I don’t see the need to share them with everyone.

When I send pictures to our group, I feel that the people who pay her compliments or say nice things are doing so from the heart because they are her family.

FOR: Life coach Lisa Rees, from South Wales, regularly updates her profile with details of her step-daughter and two daughters

I love sharing proud mammy moments such as my girls doing well in a dance competition or my daughter getting into college. We live in South Wales and my Facebook friends are mostly local to us.

My eldest is doing her GCSEs right now, so I went on Facebook to wish her good luck in the exams.

I like to put up funny stories of things they’ve said or done, or maybe pictures of when they’ve done really well at something. Then when we’re on holiday, I always post photos so my mam can see what we’re up to.

When I do update my status I usually tag my mam, my sister and my husband. He’s not really keen on me posting that much and sometimes says ‘you can’t tell people what we’re doing all the time’.

I get his point, but I’m an open person in real life and exactly the same online. Besides, it’s only my friends who can see what I put up anyway.

I never really think that I shouldn’t be posting something on Facebook. Some people don’t like to put stuff up because they’re quite private people. They have their reasons, but those things don’t really bother me.

Social media is there for sharing – that’s what it’s for. Some people obviously share things all day, every day, while I just do it as and when I feel like it.

Source: Daily Mail