parent opinion

'I always documented all my kids' milestones. Now I'm being told to stop sharing.'

On the weekend I treated my little girl to a rare babycino date. Her baby brother is usually her constant companion, but this time it was just us girls. 

As she was biting into her marshmallow, a dusting of powder ended up on her nose. I quickly snapped a pic then instinctively swiped from the camera to Instagram, ready to share her happy face with the world. 

But suddenly I paused. This shouldn’t go to my normal story viewers, right? Maybe I should just share it with my 'close friends' list? But then what if it was still seen by unintended eyes? Finally, I decided to just send the image as a direct message to my friends. 

This internal tug-of-war is becoming all too familiar when I consider what to post of my kids online. My children are my world, so I sometimes want to share them with the world. I once was a prolific poster, a proud member of the "monthly milestone" club where I showcased too many images of my daughter during the first year of her life (I'm sure plenty of people muted me, I was out of control with the newborn pics). But now I find myself hesitating, knowing every photo is potentially stored in some data centre, forever accessible to… who knows?

I'm certainly no influence, but I do have a public profile with a few thousand followers — mostly strangers who followed me BC (before children) for work-related content. And while some have become social media friends, it still leaves thousands of unknown faces viewing my posts. And 39 per cent are men. I could make the switch to private but the current followers will still be there. I also find a public account serves as a valuable tool for networking and promoting work. I've toyed with the idea of having a private Instagram for personal things, but honestly, I forget to eat some days; I don’t need this extra pressure in my life.


Watch: One mother did a photo series of her cute tiny baby against everyday objects.. Post continues after video.

Video via Mamamia.

We are the first generation to grapple with this bizarre push and pull: the desire to share our kids' lives on social media versus the mothering instinct to protect them forever. This phenomenon is so commonplace now that it's even spawned its own term: ‘sharenting’.

Then suddenly your adorable toddler is a teenager, refusing to be in any of your photos yet hundreds of their images have been circulating online for years. And with the recent push to raise the minimum age for social media accounts from 13 to 16, it feels discombobulating when parents have been documenting their kids' milestones since they were just an ultrasound pic.

The '36 Months' campaign signifies how changing the minimum age Australian teenagers can sign up for social media by just a few years, can change their future. Excessive social media use is rewiring young brains within a critical window of psychological development. It’s been linked to mental health issues, cyberbullying, anxiety, depression, self-harm, even suicide. Many experts agree 13-year-olds aren't yet ready to navigate online social networks safely and say these years are crucial for them to develop a secure sense of self alongside being, well, a normal teen.


However, it seems ironic to deny teenagers their own accounts when they've already had a social media presence for years. The average child has 1300 pictures of them online before they are 13. And that statistic is from 2018. It’s shocking to wonder what that figure could be now.

What once seemed innocent and almost expected years ago is now becoming taboo. Each time we go online we create a digital footprint. It’s both impressive and eerie that my phone knows me more intimately than my partner, serving up much needed TikTok dances after a stressful day. But whilst I'm happy to get sponsored content for slow cooker recipes, I’m unsure I want my child to have an online presence when they’re too young for screen time.

While most parents are across the dos and don’ts of sharenting: no photos showing school uniforms, don't post kids in bathers, never post someone else’s child without asking first, it’s the innocuous things like nappy orders, school enrolment forms and asking for advice in online parents groups that are also contributing to our children's digital footprints.

I've deleted numerous posts of my daughter. Unfortunately, this doesn't mean much, as these beautiful, but fleeting moments will never disappear from Meta's data, archived somewhere with the potential to outlast us all. I've also changed my online habits. There are only a handful of photos online of my son, mostly from his newborn days. And as my children grow older, so too does my concern. I find myself holding back more, aware that every moment shared with a click leaves a trace.

Feature Image: Canva.

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