Facebook fuels a 'sharenting' boom
Do you love posting photos of your kids? You might be a 'sharent' – and that's a good thing.
When Natasha Dornberg, a mother of three from Tel Aviv, saw her 11-year-old daughter do 43 consecutive somersaults, she did what any typical proud mom would do: She posted the news to Facebook.
"I get positive feedback from my friends," she told From The Grapevine, "just like if I ran into them in the supermarket back in Kingston, Rhode Island," where she grew up.
On a recent Sunday afternoon, Monique Gingold posted to Facebook "My son's book is #7!" and linked to a story on Popular Science's website titled "The 10 best things from April 2015." About a week earlier she posted "This was my daughter's first NPR story" and linked to a page from the show "All Things Considered." Her other son is a computer science professor at George Mason University and performs improv on the side. Granted, she has some exceptionally productive kids. But Gingold, a child neurologist who lives about an hour south of Pittsburgh, and Dornberg are not alone.
According to a March poll from the University of Michigan's C.S. Mott Children's Hospital, more than half of mothers and one-third of fathers say they use social media to discuss issues related to raising children. Nearly three-quarters of parents say using social media makes them feel less alone. And according to a study by Internet analytics firm AVG, 92 percent of children in the United States have an online presence before the age of 2.
Call it "Sharenting." With more than a billion users worldwide, Facebook provides a platform that brings parental pride to entirely new levels. "My kids are used to it because as far as they can remember, their mom always posts Facebook updates about them of various kinds," Dornberg says. "I think you can pretend you're not sharenting, but I think the reality is, in 2015, we're all sharenting."
Earlier this month, Facebook launched a feature called Scrapbook, which allows parents to more easily share their children's accomplishments. "This project is a labor of love," says Dan Barak, the Israeli Facebook engineer behind the new service.
So why does Dornberg keep posting those photos? It's not just a source of pride, she says – it's also a teaching tool. "I really only have two options," she explains. "One is to walk them through getting to know social media when they're young enough and still willing to walk through things with their mom. Or I can wait until they're full-blown teenagers whose first instinct is to hide everything from their mom, then hope that I've already given them all the right tools to be smart on social media. I went with the first plan."
Experts agree there can be positive aspects to sharenting, especially for other parents working on building a better relationship with their children. "It could be really motivating for people who are potentially struggling in that area to see someone who has been able to be successful," Dr. Alyssa Berlin, a Los Angeles-based psychologist, told From The Grapevine. "There's a tremendous bonding that comes with being able to share experiences with one another. At our core, people are social beings."
At the same time, she cautions that Facebook can sometimes be a facade. "Facebook is not real," she says. "The kids seem like Einstein and the parents look like they live in paradise." With her own family, Berlin is careful to ask her children first before she posts something about them.
As for Gingold, whose children are all adults, she's comfortable using Facebook to be a proud mother. She also uses the social network to keep in touch with her aunt in Israel and to post photos of her poodle, Beshy, who follows Gingold everywhere, including to a weekly Zumba class. But when it comes to her children, one of them is making things a little difficult. Gingold's oldest son is rarely on Facebook. "If I want to see what he's doing," she says, "I need to go on Twitter."
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