Sharenting: parents face new questions about their child's digital footprint

Challenges parents face with children and their digital footprint. Claudia Coco /WGXA News

MACON, Ga -- Parents are facing new challenges in the social media age. It's now commonplace to post pictures of young children to all different kinds of social media platforms. Now parents face the question of should I ask my child's permission to shape their digital footprint?

Stacey Benbry likes to share about her family on social media, but she stays on the side of caution.

"I don't even refer to my daughter by name on social media," Benbry said. "I refer to her as a pseudonym because I don't want people to be able to track her."

Benbry wants to keep her children safe from predators, and maybe embarrassment later on.

"Because later on I was worried there are some things she may not want other people to know," Benbry said.

Cheryl Anthony said she posts quite a bit because they go on a lot of family vacations, but she leaves off the last name.

"Usually I just put my name or sometimes I'll write my child's name on there, or my grandchild's name, but just the first name," Anthony said.

She said that way her children and grandchildren can go back later and tag themselves or share the pictures if they want to.

"Most of the time I just post what I think is cute, or funny or something like that," Anthony said. "Sometimes my son, he's nine years old the youngest one, I'll ask 'do you mind if I put this on facebook' or whatever."

Every parent handles social media differently, but it might not be a bad thing to let the children shape their digital footprint.

"You really want to give the child more authority in shaping their digital footprint," said Licensed Marriage and Family Therapist Bruce Conn.

Conn said everyone has that awkward 10-year-old picture. Some children may be comfortable with a parent posting that to social media, some might not.

"These five-year-old pictures are there somewhere for somebody to drag in, it's just not fair to their own identity and how they present themselves digitally," Conn said.

Conn said the most important thing parents must ask themselves before posting pictures is, 'what will pop up when my child is looking for a job 15 years from now?'

He said there is no right or wrong answer on how a parent handles a child's social media, but there is a fine line between a proud parent and living vicariously through your child digitally.

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