British Columbia·Point of View

'Oversharenting': Are you giving away too much about your kids online?

In a world that's increasingly digital, how much of your child's life should be posted online? Is the loss of privacy worth the likes?

From baby pics to basic info, parents need to be aware that companies are tracking their children

A Filipino mother takes a picture of her daughter wearing a cloth diaper during the 'Great Cloth Diaper Change' in Pampanga, north of Manila, Philippines
Snapping photos of your kids is a long-standing tradition for parents. But what online legacy are you leaving your kids? (Mark R. Cristino/EPA)

This story is part of Amy Bell's column Parental Guidance, which airs on CBC Radio One's The Early Edition.

Snapping photos of your kids — sometimes embarrassing ones — is a long-standing tradition for parents. 

But as the digital age has taken over from the family scrapbooks, and more of our lives are lived online, what digital legacy are you leaving your kids? Are you guilty of what's been called "oversharenting"? 

I opened up my Facebook account when my child was born in 2006. It seemed perfect to show everyone how deliriously adorable my daughter was. 

But as both she and her brother have gotten older — and a lot wiser when it comes to being online — I've been called out a lot for what I've posted without asking. Despite my pleas of "but you had the cutest little tush!", the pictures that I find adorable, they find mortifying. 

And now I'm under direct orders to receive explicit approval for all future kid-related posts, it's made me question the ways in which I share not only my offspring's images, but their information in general. 

'Children tracked by companies from moment of conception'

From the moment you download that first app to monitor your pregnancy, your child has a digital footprint — and it's not just photos that people are after, it's information.

The Child/Data/Citizen project is based out of the U.K. but relies on a team from around the world to track how our lives — specifically our children's lives — are transformed by the production of "personally identifying digital data". 

Information is big business for big companies, and your kids are one of their main suppliers.

"Children's data is collected. I'm talking about educational data, health data," says the project's lead researcher Dr. Veronica Barassi. 

"Children are tracked by companies from the moment of conception."

'Giving away your most prized possession to the Internet'

But in this day and age, simply "going off the grid" isn't necessarily an option, or even what people want.

So how do we ensure the online legacy of our children is under their control?

"I always tell parents, if you, today, had to spend a dollar a day to use social media, would you? And the majority say no," says social media educator Jesse Miller, who helps companies, teachers and parents navigate the digital world, what motivates us to stay there, and at what cost.

"So if you're giving away your most prized possession to the Internet, just so it's a like … but you wouldn't spend a dollar, what are you doing?" she says.

Our kids are the first generation to grow up with their entire lives documented online for the masses, and we still need years to see how this could affect them in the future, both positively and negatively.

By letting them have more authority when it comes to what we share, it may make them more aware and respectful going forward. Not just about themselves but — perhaps just as importantly — what they share about others; the consent they ask for and then respect in kind.

Maybe they'll be the ones to stop this runaway data train in its tracks — and that might allow them to raise children who grow up knowing their embarrassing photos go no further then the family room.

And maybe "oversharenting" can be something embarrassing we leave behind as well. 


Amy Bell is a digital contributor to CBC. She can be heard weekdays on The Early Edition as the traffic and weather reporter and parenting columnist.