Sex & Relationships

To Share or Not to Share? “Sharenting” Has Instagram Divided

"The right to privacy isn't something we earn as we age"

Should you post photos of your kids online or keep them off Insta until they’re old enough to consent? We asked two mums to weigh in on the great “sharenting” debate… 

I Share

Sophie Cachia, 29 

Influencer and business owner, 252,000 Instagram followers

Someone asked me a question on Instagram  a few years back that I didn’t really understand. The lady said: “Does Bobby  give you permission to share his photos  on the Web?” I sat there staring at this question – the first but certainly not the last of its kind that I’d receive. Does Bobby give me permission?

For context, Bobby wasn’t even two years old yet and his favourite pastimes included eating yoghurt and banana before dramatically throwing the bowl on the floor, seeing how far he could stretch his penis out while balancing a hysterical laugh with a painful screech, and dancing animatedly to Fatman Scoop “Put Your Hands Up.”

I thought, “How much permission can a  not-yet-two-year-old baby give you?” And then,  “How much permission should they give you?” For Chrissake, I carried Bobby for a horrific period of nine months that saw me once vomit and crap my pants simultaneously (party trick). How dare anyone think I shouldn’t have full control over every move or every decision he makes for the duration of his life?

Bobby didn’t need to give me permission for anything. I was his mother, Jaryd was his father.  Did I get his permission to feed him mashed potato for dinner? Did I seek out his opinion  on his daily outfit choices? Did I present him with three holiday destinations for our Christmas trip and allow him to decide? No. I was his mother so, at that point in time, I got to make every judgement, every call, every decision in his life.

As a family, we’ve had people brazenly film us in public and others ask for photos of the kids when they’re with their grandparents. Now generally – with very few exceptions – we don’t allow strangers to take photos of our children. “But you put them online?” I hear  you say. Sure. But as a mother that’s my choice and one I’m very selective about. It is my responsibility  to protect my kids at all times. Also, I don’t want  my children to grow up thinking it’s normal for strangers on the street to know their names and that they should be expected to peace [sign] and pout for the camera. I can acknowledge that by putting them online I am in fact creating that buzz, however, as parents, we are the ones who get to create those boundaries. It’s as simple as that.

We are a generation of oversharers. With that comes a myriad of negativity; but opening up online also has its positives. Together, we are able to  build communities, support each  other and communicate with parents.

I share my life on social media. I have built a brand, a strong online presence, a loyal following, and off the back of that, three very successful businesses. From day one, I’ve made it clear that I would run a page filled with authenticity and rawness. Sharing  my life means sharing my children. They are a part of my life that cannot be ignored, and I am proud to post their achievements as we navigate through life.

I frequently see influencers being asked: “Why don’t you show us your older children much?” when it’s obvious that these individuals are at an age of making their own decisions. As Bobby has grown older (he’s now nearly six), he has shown hesitation about photo opportunities at times. And as his mother, I respect that, and know that it will  most likely become more common.

But, for now, I enjoy creating memories with both  of my children and actively sharing parts of my life with my followers. I am smart in what I share – with their safety my number one priority – and I’m proud of the space we have created all together as a family.

I don’t share 

Clementine Ford, 38

Writer, 70,000 Instagram followers

I’m sorry to be blunt, but my son is the most beautiful child in the world. I know this will be upsetting for some of you to hear, because you perhaps believe it is your child who claims the title of the World’s Best and Most Cherubic. But alas, you are mistaken! While I’m sure your children are very, very lovely and delightful in their own way, they cannot possibly hope to compete with the concentrated ball of pure joy who spreads pixie  dust throughout my house each day. After all, do I have more than 10,000 photographs of your child in my phone? No. Because that would be weird.

Jokes aside, we are all intoxicated by the beauty of our children. Despite the hard moments, the tear-out-your-hair anxiety and rage that can come with being a parent, they remain the most magical of creatures we’ve ever laid eyes on.  We photograph them because we are compelled to try to capture their essence and immortalise it on film or in pixels, as is more often the case these days. Our photographs are an attempt to build a living shrine to the multitude of ways they have changed our lives, broadened our horizons, taught us new and terrifying ways to  love and be loved. We share those photos with other people as a way of articulating the magnitude of this love, a way of celebrating the astonishing fact of their existence – I made this! Isn’t it spectacular!

So, I get it. But just because I get it doesn’t mean I don’t think the endless public cataloguing of children’s lives is a good idea. And I think celebrities and influencers who choose to share images of  their children as part of a personal branding exercise are playing a very dicey game.

First and foremost is the issue of consent, particularly when images are being shared to construct an image of perfection or to sell products. Children simply cannot offer informed consent to having their images beamed into the phones of thousands (and sometimes hundreds of thousands) of people  all over the world. As parents, it’s our job to make daily decisions regarding their welfare. That includes respecting their right to privacy.

And I don’t think enough people recognise that the right to privacy isn’t something we earn as we age. It isn’t a rite of passage or a privilege that only becomes relevant when we become old enough to vote. Making that choice to expose their lives and images to strangers may not be felt as a violation now, but that might change when they’re older and able to articulate their concerns.

Then there are safety concerns. One of the reasons I choose not to share photos of my son’s face is because I don’t want to expose him to the kind of threats and trolling that I receive  on a daily basis as a result of my feminist writing. I won’t always be able to protect him from the reality of my job, but I can at least protect him from the worst brunt of it.

We don’t really know what the long-term consequences will be of raising children in a digital age, where performance, follower counts and artifice have taken centrestage. This is why it’s especially concerning to me to see children becoming products and brands in their own right. Let’s be real: it’s weird that adults want to breathlessly follow (PR mogul) Roxy Jacenko’s eight-year-old daughter on Instagram. Jacenko runs the account, which in turn earns the family money by way of sponsored posts and product sales. Meanwhile, we have no labour laws that work in a social media age to protect children from parental exploitation or that guarantee  them defined working hours.

Public figures have so much of their lives on display already. Shouldn’t there be one thing – the most beautiful, spectacular, magical thing you’ve ever created – that you get to keep to yourself?

This article originally appeared in the February 2020 issue of marie claire.

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