The advice we’ve all heard a million times - “Think before you post!” - applies to family life as much as it does to friendship groups.
Family life has never been without its (ahem) challenges, but being a parent in a digital world - let alone a digital world in a pandemic - is raising a host of concerns no previous generation could even imagine.
Case in point: permission to post.
Think for a moment how meaningless that phrase would have been to your grandmother. But that was then, and this is now.
If your family has experienced squabbling - or an out-and-out standoff - on the question of posting photos to social media, welcome to the world of digital family life.
And make no mistake. The problem of “sharenting” - parents sharing pics of their kids without permission - can work both ways. And let’s not forget “shaunting” and “shuncling” while we’re at it.
The problem of “sharenting” - parents sharing pics of their kids without permission - can work both ways. And let’s not forget “shaunting” and “shuncling” while we’re at it.
Mum of three Sarah reports being “taken aback” to find that her 20-something daughter had posted a grainy photo of her teenage self, circa 1975, to her Instagram story, under the caption “My mama was a babe.”
A wake-up call
“I mean, I was sort of flattered,” Sarah admitted. “But I was also sort of disturbed. I’d sent my daughter that picture in a private text. I’d wanted to share it with her - not her 600 followers.”
The daughter apologised straightaway after Sarah’s reminder - gentle but exasperated - that it would have been a good idea to get her permission first.
“It was a wake-up call to both of us, really,” Sarah reflected. “It’s just so easy to tap your screen and send something - anything - out into the world.” More and more, she worries, we do such things unthinkingly, heedless of the consequences.
“In this case, those consequences were small. But it’s easy to imagine situations where real damage could be done.”
It's not just parents and children ...
Barbara and her younger sister Ella have always been close, despite their different temperaments. Barbara is extroverted and active on social media; Ella is quieter and more protective of her privacy. But since the birth of Ella’s baby - her sister is childless - they’ve come into conflict repeatedly. The issue? You guessed it. Facebook posts.
Barbara is proud of her adorable baby niece, she says - and that’s why she posts so many pictures of her. (Barbara is also an excellent photographer.)
Ella and her partner Tom feel strongly that the decision to share their daughter’s images should be theirs to make. Several times now they’ve asked Barbara not to post before getting approval from them.
Ella and Tom are furious that their wishes to protect their family’s privacy have been ignored by Barbara’s insistence on “shaunting.” Barbara thinks they’re being control freaks.
She’s agreed to stop posting. But she’s also hurt and bewildered. They all wonder if permanent damage has been done to the relationship.
The moral of these stories? Simply that we are all still adjusting to a digital world, where the “done thing” is still a work in progress - and none of us is ever quite sure where we stand on the shifting sands of appropriate online behaviour.
In the offline world, we know that “sharing is caring.” On social media, maybe not so much. Think about it: How can you “share” what doesn’t belong to you in the first place?
Some problems of digital family life are hard.
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Topics: Cyber Bullying, Parental Controls, Screen time, Mobile Apps, Cyber Safety, Social Media, sharenting
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