Zoe Holland, mum and teacher, talks about her ups and downs with sharenting and how she encourages her children to be safe online.
Zoe often shares photos of her children, aged 12, 10 and 7, online. “I write a family-focused blog, and so we’re often sharing photos of the family engaging in activities, and I share a lot of pictures on my Instagram account,” she says.
At the moment, she doesn’t ask her children’s permission, and the children are excited to feature in online images, but Zoe can anticipate a time when her soon-to-be-teen might not think being on her Mum’s social media accounts is cool!
How sharenting can go wrong
That’s not to say there haven’t been times when “sharenting” has gone a bit too far. Once, Zoe entered a competition to find Britain’s untidiest bedroom, using a photo of her daughter. “I didn’t check the terms and conditions, and the photo ended up on the front page of the local paper,” confesses Zoe. “I felt extremely guilty, and it did teach me to always check what rights you allow other people when you’re sharing images.”
At 12 and 10, Zoe’s two eldest children are beginning to explore the Internet, and share their own images. “Morris has just started high school, and is using Instagram, so I follow his account and check comments every now and then,” says Zoe. “But with Leon, who’s 11, we have a rule of no social media before high school.”
Using the ‘granny rule’ to share safely
Before sharing images, Zoe advises the children to consider how would Granny or their teacher feel about them if they saw that picture? “I hope it teaches them to think twice before posting.”
At home, Internet access is strictly monitored. The children are limited to 30 minutes at a time online, and prioritise school work over YouTube or computer games. The children are told not to delete their Internet history, so their parents can check what has been accessed.
Protecting their curiosity
“We recently found that sexual intercourse had been put into a search engine, which was a concern,” says Zoe. “Of course, it’s understandable that boys are curious about sex, but the Internet is a dangerous place to look for answers. We had a very open chat about how the sex they might see on the Internet is not real life.”
After this conversation, Zoe and her husband extended the family’s Internet rules to say that they trust the boys to use their computer time responsibility, but that inappropriate behavior would result in a loss of computer access for a period of time.
Zoe admits she worries that this close monitoring will be harder as the boys get older and more computer savvy. “Overall, I think the lesson we’re trying to teach them is if they are responsible, they will receive more privileges and more trust,” she says.
What is sharenting? - The practice of a parent regularly using social media to communicate detailed information about their child.See full definition
Sharing images online Q & A
Zoe and her three children; Morris (12) and Leon (10) Holland-McGhee and Daisy Holland (7), answer questions on what images they share online.
What kinds of images do you share, and who with?
Zoe (parent): Pictures of the family and places we visit. I share them with my friends and on my blog.
Boys: Selfies, funny faces, Minecraft videos and Football skills on YouTube. They share them with their friends in mind but know that anyone can watch their YouTube videos.
What dangers might you think about when sharing pictures online?
Boys: Cyberbullying! Someone might write that I look ugly in a selfie or that I’m not very good at football and I might feel bad about it.
Daisy (7): contributes if you put a naked picture of you in the shower someone might see it. Boys: Paedophiles might try to like our profile and be our friend. (They’re askd if they know what a paedophile is) A person who pretends to be someone online when they are actually someone else. (They are told the full extent of what a paedophile is…Leon looks very confused.)
What are the benefits of sharing images online?
Zoe (parent): Keeping in touch with friends around the World and sharing good experiences.
Boys: Making your friends laugh and having jokes with them even when you’re not with them.
Leon: Becoming famous and making money from YouTube.
Do you follow each other on social media, have you ever been asked to take an image down?
Boys: Morris and I follow each other. We’ve never asked each other to remove any images yet.
Zoe (parent): I don’t follow the boys YouTube accounts but I am shown a lot of the footage they share which is a LOT of Minecraft and a few football skills.
Are you open with what you share with each other?
Zoe (parent): Yes. We all share our posts with each other.
Are there any boundaries about what types of videos and images can be shared?
Boys: We would always wear our clothes and not get naked! Or do swear fingers!
Zoe (parent): (To the children) Try to always think who might end up seeing the things you share online. Don’t be unkind to others. Don’t film yourself doing silly things that could get you into trouble or hurt yourself or others. Don’t share anything too personal.
If you gave one tip to other families about sharing images online, what, would it be?
Boys: Stay safe! Think before you share anything.
Zoe (parent): Always ask yourself will this upset anyone, will it get me into trouble, will it make people think less of me? Job done!
More to explore
Read Share Aware parents guide from NSPCC
See social media how to guide to set privacy settings
Find out more about Zoe Holland