Why 'Sharents' Are on the Rise & What Moms Need to Know Before They Become One

mom taking picture of baby
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When our parents were little, if a person wanted to show off their treasured family memories, they took personal pictures and glued them into a scrapbook. Today, the entire internet is our scrapbook. From Instagram and Facebook to Youtube and personal blogs, parents are not only taking more pictures of their kids than ever -- they're more willing to share those photos with complete strangers. This phenomena, called "Sharenting" -- coined by Law Professor Stacey Steinberg -- is not just an annoying habit that has emerged out of the iPhone generation. It is also a troubling trend that your kids might not thank you for later. 

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Although sharing the latest picture of your little one might be as natural as brushing your teeth, the growing research has shown that in time, over-sharing your family photos can make your kids more anxious, make them more susceptible to identity theft, and make their images easily accessible to pedophiles. According to The Daily Beast, 50 percent of images stolen from pedophile sites are taken from social media. 

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Additionally, a 2010 study by the internet surveillance company AVG, reported that 92 percent of American 2-year-olds already have a unique online identity. By 5, most children have over 1,000 pictures of them online, reports Time Magazine. Take into account the growing trend of "mommy influencers," who get paid by advertisers to share product-placement photos of them and their kids, and you have a growing phenomenon where there is little incentive to stop.  

This is why Steinberg is concerned that parents might not be aware of the danger that lurks when he or she hits "share" on Instagram. Speaking with CNN, Steinberg said, "There's been a dearth of discussion on this topic by both legal scholars, children's rights advocates, pediatricians and by the media, and this dearth for discussion leaves parents with an insufficient amount of material to consider before they press share on their digital devices."

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mom and daughter
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"A big part of my research really focuses on a child's privacy and a child being able to enter adulthood free to create their own digital footprint," she adds, telling CNN, "or at least being able to feel comfortable with the digital footprint that's been left in their childhood wake." And while, Steinberg understands that she can't stop parents from sharing their children's photos completely, she does urge them to be informed with their privacy settings and think twice before they post.

So how can parent's protect themselves and their kids from being vulnerable on the internet? 

Steinberg told CNN that a helpful thing to know is that "social sharing sites give the option of setting passwords and having online content hidden from Google search algorithms." And in a separate interview Steinberg gave with Consumer Reports, she warned that parents should always be weary of posting partially dressed or undressed photos of their children online, setting up a Google notification of their child's name in case they show up in a Google search, being cautious of sharing your child's location, school, or address, and if one wants to participate in online forums, (like a Facebook page or Sub-Reddit) to do so while keeping their child's name anonymous. 

Steinberg also reminds parents that one of the most powerful ways that an adult can protect their children is to give them veto-ing power from a young age of what they do and do not want shared on the internet. Steinberg admitted that a 6-year-old might not understand the full implications of social media, but they will understand the idea that even if your proud of something, you may or may not want to share it.

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