Who's my little Instababy? Parenting in a digital world.

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Who's my little Instababy? Parenting in a digital world.

Every parent is proud of their baby and believes their little person is the most beautiful in the world.  Social media has become the perfect platform to share the pride, but at what point does sharing and caring cross safety boundaries? And when does a little become too much?

Read on to understand the risks of “sharenting” and what’s important to know

Another day, another photo opportunity  

Parents are the ultimate controllers of information about their baby, until their small person is capable of making their own decisions.

From the earliest positive pregnancy test and ultrasound photo to the latest messy mealtime image, every move your baby makes will be an opportunity to share. As long as you’re careful about who you’re connecting with on social media, the risk is reasonably low that images of your baby will be shared inappropriately. However, it pays to be open minded about the risks.

Advantages of social media

  • Quick sharing opportunities. For friends and family who are apart it can be brilliant to see what’s happening right now.
  • Allows you to reconnect with people you’ve no other means of contacting.
  • Feedback is immediate, if you’re going through a low point or want some reassurance, you’ll get it very quickly.
  • It doesn’t take long to post and check what connections are up to.
  • It’s a digital world. To deny this would be unrealistic.

Remember

  • Once your baby has an online presence, they also have a digital footprint. And like the impressions small feet can leave in wet concrete, they can be there for a very long time.
  • Babies can become the currency of trade in social media circles. There can be a point where what is meant to be a bit of fun may become something else. Ask yourself, without your baby as a go-between, would you be connecting with this person or people? 
  • If the product is free, you (or your child) are the product/s. Be suspicious about any offer made to you which involves photos of your baby and which you don’t have the final say over.
  • Your baby has a right to their privacy. As much as you adore and are connected with them, they are not an extension of you. They are a separate entity with individual rights.  Be respectful of their rights and their inability to communicate what they want shared.
  • Don’t outsource your confidence building to someone else. Your baby is unique and special, know this and believe it.
  • Always err on the side of caution. If something doesn’t feel right to share then don’t do it. Follow your gut feelings, always.

Sharenting rules

Technology used carefully can be a fabulous resource, but it can also put children at risk of privacy violations and identify theft.  Once information and images are uploaded, they’re stored in digital archives for a very long time.  Your baby will eventually grow into an adult who may not be grateful for the decisions you’re making about them right now.

Digital kidnapping is a form of identity theft where someone else could use photos of your child and claim they’re their own. New names and identities are given, and although this information is far from factual, there’s nothing you’ll be able to do.  

Children can feel humiliated by social media posts which can open them up to bullying, harassment and discrimination.  What you view now as cute and endearing may not be interpreted in the same way by your child or their peers in ten years time. At the extreme, even job opportunities and political persuasions could be affected in years to come.

The decisions you make about sharing information about your child are based on assuming they’d give consent. But if they could, would they? Think for a moment about your child’s autonomy and what would be right for them.  Making decisions on another person’s behalf is a huge responsibility.

Over sharing can lead to interest fatigue. Though your intention may be to provide fascinating updates on your baby’s day, this could actually be an irritation for people who don’t share the same unfiltered adoration. Your baby needs to be fascinating to you, that’s in their role description. But don’t assume everyone else shares the same feelings.

Home devices and smart toys, even monitors can be hacked. The information they gather can be used to create an identity which is ripe for being used unlawfully. 

Always

  • Use privacy settings on your account. Don’t include people who you’re not 100% sure have the same moral code as yourself. And ask those you’re sharing with not to share again.
  • Use social media options such as private messaging to minimise conversations being shared publicly.
  • Check with your partner to see if they’re happy you share images and information about your child. It can really help to have someone else’s viewpoint, especially when they don’t necessarily have the same sharenting passion.
  • Assume photos and images you’ve uploaded will be shared. Be cautious about what you’re putting up – photos of you breastfeeding, your baby naked, bathtime, or without a nappy on are undoubtedly cute to you but can also be inappropriately attractive to others.

Never

  • Share photos of other people’s children without checking first with their parents.
  • Include identifying information such as names, addresses, date of birth or uniforms which could all be used to track your child.
  • Give other information about where the images where taken.
  • Assume everyone has the same ethics as you do. It’s your job to protect your child at all times.
  • Share images of children who are involved in child protection or family court proceedings. There is child protection legislation which is designed to protect children in these circumstances.

Written for Safe Sleep Space by Jane Barry, Midwife and Child Health Nurse.

Help with looking after your baby

The NourishBaby - Guide to Babies - is an online program that you can view in your own time. The Guide to Babies helps you to understand and care for your baby and covers key milestones, sleep and settling advice and baby development. There is a section on real parents sharing their experience of adjusting to parenthood. 

Many parents have reduced sleep when a new baby arrives. Our Safe Sleep Space website has a variety of resources and support to provide tips and advice on how to assist your baby with sleep. You can also book a phone consultation to speak with a Sleep Consultant. 

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  • Cindy Davenport