kids

"'Sharenting' is not something to keep hidden away. We need more of it. Not less."

If “sharenting” is a selfish and dangerous activity, then my Facebook feed is full of terrible humans.

For example, this morning, I launched the app and saw:

A former colleague’s toddler falling asleep in their car seat, mindlessly cramming crackers in her mouth.

A hospital shot of a newborn wrapped in the ubiquitous pink-and-blue blanket of a labour ward.

A video of a work friend’s toddler in a nappy, playing drums on dad’s head.

My own son and daughter rumbling with their uncles on a weekend visit.

I’ve seen the first words and first foods of children I have never met.

I’ve seen toddlers looking sad in hospital, little girls splashing in the backyard pool. Accidental swears. “Hilarious” backyard stacks.

Holly with her kids. Image supplied.

"Sharenting" is what we do now. And apparently, we have no idea how dangerous and dumb it is.

So said the excellent writer Angela Mollard this weekend in a column for News Ltd that aimed a barb at one of the great sharenters of the modern age, Zoe Foster Blake.

In case you have been trapped under something heavy, here's a recap: Zoe and her husband Hamish Blake both have busy, red-hot careers. She's a beauty guru/writer/business owner. He, according to Zoe, is a tap-dancer, but you might know him as one half of Hamish and Andy. They are parents to Sonny Foster Blake, who is two and almost unreasonably cute.

Sonny features large in Zoe and Hamish's social feeds, which have a combined following of 1,107,000 people on Instagram.

A dedicated army obsess over his adorably-mangled pronunciation of words like "favourite" and come together to Share and Like every new missive from his parents (Sonny does not have his own social feeds, unlike Roxy Jacenko's much-followed daughter Pixie Curtis, or several of my friends' under-fives).

Scroll through to see pictures of Sonny Blake from Instagram. (Post continues after gallery.)

Still. In her story, Angela says:

We don’t know if pictures of gorgeous blue-eyed boys like Sonny, happily showering with his dad, and innocently posted to the internet, are being shared by paedophiles.

We also don’t know if this first generation of social media kids are going to grow up and resent the invasion of their privacy. In years to come Sonny may be really cross that his parents showed off his tummy rolls and posted videos of his mispronounced words.

And so today we wake to a debate about whether silly, vain parents are prioritising Shares and Likes over their own children's safety. And it feels ugly.

It feels like we are telling parents - especially happy, loving, besotted parents - to stop showing off and get back in their boxes.

It feels like we are trolling them with the ultimate sledge - being a bad, reckless parent.

Because for every Zoe Foster Blake (who actually posts about Sonny about once a week) there are a million "ordinary" mums, chronicling their days on social media, detailing the minutiae of the sometimes tedious, sometimes frustrating, often happy lives.

And for them, sharing is a gift that connects. Putting up a photo of the time their seven-year-old finally  tied their shoes is like a tiny validation of all the effort, time and attention they are pouring into the little people in their lives.

We all gotta get paid I guess. ????????????

A video posted by ZOË FOSTER BLAKE! (@zotheysay) on

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In our child-centred age, parents' lives orbit about their children and their children's needs: when they are small, when they are football-playing lugs on a Saturday morning field, when they are doing their HSC, when they get their first job. Their milestones feel like our milestones, their achievements our own.

They are also, to our subjective eyes, the most photogenic, glorious creatures to have ever been created, and their every move is worthy of documentation.

That is parenting, and it has always been parenting. All that has changed now is that the family album lives in the palm of your hand, and can be shared, anytime, at the touch of a screen.

So why not do it?

Safety, of course, is the biggest stick used to beat any sharent. But here's the thing: You can't control what other people are thinking when they are looking at your children, any more than you can control what they are thinking when they're looking at you. Why should we airbrush children out of our lives for fear that someone, somewhere is triggered into a dark fantasy by their very existence? We can't give a twisted few that much agency over our lives.

Listen to what Zoe and Sonny do when Hamish is away. (Post continues after audio.)

What about the argument that a selfie might embarrass them? Might stop them getting a job one day? Show me this mythical future boss who turns down the most qualified applicant because there's an online picture of three-year-old them eating dirt and I'll show you an idiot. And, come on, parents are supposed to embarrass their children. They've been doing that since cave paintings of that time little Tommy patted a sabre-tooth tiger and lost a thumb.

Now our cave paintings live on social media.

Of all these issues, consent and permission are perhaps the most thorny. If your child asks you to stop posting pictures of them and you keep doing it, you are not a "sharent" - you're a horrible person.

And surely that's at the heart of this debate. Intent and context are everything. The vast majority of "sharents" - including Zoe and Hamish - have considered what they're doing and set their own boundaries. For one parent that might be no faces, for another no bare bums. Whatever, they come from a place of love.

Proud, unfettered parental love.

And that's not something to keep hidden away. We need more of it. Not less.

Anyway, have you seen how cute my son is? It would be almost criminal to keep that to myself.

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