'Sharenting' is second nature these days, but how can you post about your children safely – and ensure it doesn't affect your relationship in the future?

If you're on social media, you probably come across sharenting on a daily basis

Mother photographing her baby using mobile phone
(Image credit: Getty Images)

Sharenting. Chances are, you’ve probably shared images or – unknowingly – information about your child's life online, but will this affect your relationship with them further down the line and how can you do it responsibly?

In an era where social media is as much part of our lives as coffee in the morning, questions about online safety for kids and data protection are more relevant than ever, especially as platforms such as Facebook celebrates almost two decades of existence. If you've posted a cute first-day-of-school picture or some fun holiday snaps of your child, you’re certainly not alone.

After all, who can resist when they look so adorable? And, won’t it be nice to be reminded of these memories from, say, Facebook in the future? Sharing helps us receive that immediate buzz of connection with family and friends but as we read their comments and the 'likes' roll in, it can be easy to forget about the long-term impact of our innocent posts.

We’ve looked at the latest studies and research and spoken to a BACP registered counsellor Ashley Duncan to help guide you through 'sharenting', and its potential impact on children so you can still enjoy sharing pictures of your kids if you want to, but in a way that feels safe – and won't affect your relationship with them when they're older.

'Sharenting' has become a part of our vocabulary since the early 2010s, thanks to Wall Street Journal writer Steven Leckhart. Combining ‘sharing’ and ‘parenting’, it was described as “a phenomenon in which parents overshare content about their children on the internet”. It also became an official term in the Oxford English Dictionary in 2022.

The statistics are eye-opening: about 80% of parents with young kids post their photos online, according to a report by OFCOM. In the US, a study found that 92% of two-year-olds have an online presence. The landscape is similar here too, as recent research has found that 13-year-olds would have had their picture posted on social media 1,300 times – yikes.

That’s a lot when you consider that many people who have young children now consider themselves lucky if they have more than one or two photo albums documenting their childhood. So much has changed – and quickly.

The benefits of sharenting

Parents participate in sharenting for various reasons. Mostly, it’s out of pride in our children. So many of us are eager to share milestones and daily adventures with family and friends. “Sharenting allows parents to share joyful, funny or proud moments with others,” says Ashley.

It also serves as a platform to seek support when faced with a child-related dilemma and provides a digital archive to preserve cherished memories. Sharenting can also be a fun way to take part in trends or traditions like back-to-school, Ashley adds.

Parent recording first steps of their baby girl

Parent 'sharenting' first steps of their baby girl

(Image credit: Getty Images)
Ashley Duncan
Ashley Duncan

Ashley Duncan is a BACP registered counsellor working online and in-person in South West London. She holds a Masters degree in counselling, and post-qualifying training in counselling outdoors and intimate partner therapy. Her areas of specialism include early life experiences, adult relationship dynamics, and the interface of psychotherapy and spirituality.

What are the risks of sharenting?

The dark sides of sharenting can be worrying and pretty sinister, quite frankly. But, it's not just about people taking your information – it can impact parent-child relationships, as Ashley explains:

  • Lack of consent: “Sharenting raises some important considerations around children’s rights,” states Ashley. “Very young children simply can't give consent to having photos and videos of themselves posted online. Older children may have some understanding of social media, but their understanding of the possible risks and long-term consequences of things shared may be limited.”
  • Identity: Concerns have also been raised that parents are forming their child's identify online - and this can go on to negatively impact the development of their personality in real life. They may feel the way their parents portray them, conflicts with how they would rather present themselves.
  • Embarrassed teens: A 2019 study found that by 13 years old, children felt embarrassed and self-conscious by the act of sharenting, and some perceived it as bragging. 
  • Affecting the child-parent relationship: “Parents may be putting a lot of energy into getting the right photo and posting it online,” says Ashley. “This can be distracting. For very young children particularly, attentive interaction is essential for healthy development.”
  • Privacy: Sharing a picture of your child’s first day of school, could reveal which school they go to. This concern goes beyond their day-to-day safety - research conducted by Barclays has predicted that 7.4 million incidents of identity fraud per year could be linked to sharenting by 2030. 
  • A digital footprint from an early age: 'Digital kidnapping' is a recent term and involves the unauthorised use of someone’s images, personal information or identity on the internet. The average child will now have a digital footprint before their first birthday, according to a paper published in the National Library of Medicine.
  • The threat of AI: Children are especially vulnerable to having their pictures lifted, altered and shared. “Images shared publicly online can be accessed and altered by anyone, and sadly images of children are targets for predators,” warns Ashley. Ashley.

5 tips to responsible sharenting

When deciding what to share, Ashley recommends these five tips to help you find a balance:

  • Check your privacy settings. Most importantly, make sure you know exactly who has access to what you’re sharing online, says Ashley. “Take extra care not to show things like school uniform logos, and avoid sharing images of [your] children undressed, such as when they’re in the bath or swimming.” 
  • Think carefully about how the content you post will ‘age’ with your child. It turns out that social media content has an expiry date too, so “a video of a funny dance might be sweet today, but in 10 years it could be a source of embarrassment for a young person trying to make new friends at college or settle into their first job,” says Ashley. 
  • Avoid drawing attention to your child’s looks. “Instead, you could ask them about the fun they're having, and tell them what you're enjoying about being with them,” Ashley suggests. 
  • Start the conversation around social media with your children. Help them understand the benefits and risks when the time is right, Ashley advises. “Ask their permission to share things about them, and respect their right to say ‘'no’.”
  • Implement more phone-free time. We get it – the algorithm is designed to keep you coming back for more, but as an experiment, Ashley recommends putting your phone aside for frequent, extended periods of time during the day when you're with your children. “Allow yourself to engage and be present in whatever you're doing together without taking any photos or videos,” she suggests.
From our writer

Daniella Gray

(Image credit: Daniella Gray)

“My eyes have been well and truly opened when researching for this piece – and some of the statistics I read really were hair-raising. I understand most kids will grow up with a lot of their life played out online, but I don’t think it hurts to be aware of the dangers of having a digital footprint from such a young age. One content creator I came across who explores the world of ‘generation shared’ is @mom.unchartered. She uses the phrase ‘pause before you post’ throughout her content and I agree that’s a great thought to have in the forefront of your mind before I share that next post.”

Sharenting is in our everyday lives. It’s become customary – obligatory even, because, did you even have a baby if you didn’t post it on social media? As the stats show – the digital footprint for the younger generation is starting much earlier, and growing faster than ever before.

Sharenting is most likely here to stay, but the good news is you have a choice. Striking a balance – and knowing where to draw the line – will help you do so mindfully. There are ways to minimise the consequences of posting your child’s photos online.

If you're wondering what makes the best childhood memories, we reveal how to create long-lasting moments with your kids and the top 10 positive traits children learn from their parents.

Daniella Gray
Family News & Wellbeing Writer

From building healthy family relationships to self-care tips for mums and parenting trends - Daniella also covers postnatal workouts and exercises for kids. After gaining a Print Journalism BA Hons degree and NCTJ Diploma in Journalism at Nottingham Trent University, Daniella started writing for Health & Wellbeing and co-hosted the Walk to Wellbeing podcast. She has also written for Stylist, Natural Health, The Sun UK and Fit & Well. In her free time, Daniella loves to travel, try out new fitness classes and cook for family and friends.