EC&I 832

Navigating Sharenting in Education

This week in EC&I 821, we looked at media literacy and how digital citizenship should be taught to all ages, so people can effectively navigate the digital world responsibly. Although this week we focused on younger students currently in classrooms, I could not stop thinking back to when the internet and social media first became accessible to millennials and the amount of content that we posted. Through daily Facebook and Twitter status updates, millennials left a large digital footprint that was, unlike our Instagram posts, unfiltered. old facebook posts - meme

Thinking back to how I used social media and the internet in the 2000s and early 2010s, I attributed a lot of my missteps to a lack of understanding and guidance. My parents and teachers did not use social media, so they had no context of the platforms and I was left to navigate the digital wild west on my own. Therefore, growing up, I thought that being a responsible digital citizen was forwarding email chains to my friends so that I did not experience seven years of bad luck. Unfortunately, this lack of digital citizenship and media literacy training within my generation still has implications that affect children today. 

A couple of years ago, an elementary school I worked in had an incident that occurred due to a parent’s misuse of their child’s digital identity. A parent created an Instagram for their child at a very young age without much moderation. By the time the child was in grade two, they were already an Instagram influencer. This became problematic when the parent posted a back-to-school picture, which included their grade, teacher, and city location. By the second day of school, the administrators at the school started receiving phone calls from random people inquiring about the child’s school schedule and inappropriate gifts were sent to the school for the child. It became a significant security and safety threat for the school and the child. 

This practice of parents sharing information and images of their children on social media has been coined as sharenting. It is just one of the by-products of a generation that did not learn about responsible digital citizenship and media literacies. Although schools are now starting to teach students about responsible digital citizenship and media literacies, a gap of knowledge exists in older generations that still impacts schools.

So, looking forward, how does the education system approach sharenting, considering both the benefits and risks it poses to students? Is it the responsibility of educational initiatives or programs to raise awareness of the implications of sharenting? If so, how do schools address parents’ differing attitudes and behaviours across various social and cultural contexts? These are just a couple of questions I am left to ponder as I continue learning about digital citizenship and media literacies.


  • Kimberly Kipp

    Hi Chantal, great post! Your meme at the beginning really made me chuckle. I am rarely on Facebook anymore, but once in a blue moon, I will check my “memories” and instantly cringe. Too much information overload – no one needs to know I used my university bursaries to go to Cuba instead (facepalm!). What was 20-year-old me thinking?!
    What an interesting and alarming story about your young influencer student, who clearly had no say in the matter. That would be such a concerning and unique issue for the admin and school. When so much of our students’ lives are posted online long before they ever enter our classroom door, it often feels like an uphill battle to promote digital literacy. So many of my middle-year students (particularly female-identifying ones) would hide their faces when taking random class pictures last year. I asked why, and they shared that students from other schools would take the online pictures, digitally alter them, and then repost all over Snapchat. While teachers and schools want to promote education, it now seems like those pictures are at the expense of our students’ privacy and self-image. It is something I have brought up in my Division tech team meetings, and we are trying to find a compromise. I know you couldn’t pay me to be young now. I firmly believe that it will take a village to fix this growing concern – education for parents and better curricular guidelines/supports for schools. Thanks for sharing!

  • Curtis Norman

    Great post Chantal! I loved the chain e-mail analogy and the term “digital wild west”. I have to admit that I share a lot of pictures of my family on social media and your one line that said, “It is just one of the by-products of a generation that did not learn about responsible digital citizenship and media literacies.” in regards to sharenting. I wasn’t sure if I agreed with because I tend to think I am a responsible digital citizen but yet I share.
    “I share therefore I am.”
    I enjoyed reading your blog and I enjoy the fact you made me self-reflect about my own digital footprint and impact on my children.
    I look forward to following your posts and reading more in the following weeks.

  • Matthew

    Hi Chantal. Your post made me think back to the “gold rush” years of Facebook when my friends and I reached out to literally anyone we had come into contact with in order to pad out our friend counts. At the time there was a certain social cachet to have a vast friend count. I wonder how many of us ended up oversharing intimate details of our lives to a network of strangers. The web is a permanent place and once something is out there, it is out there forever. It is shocking how lax we were (and sometimes still are) with data security. A colleague of mine commented that when she use to go out on dates in the early 2010s she would first review the person’s profile pages and look for “red flags”. The fact that nearly everyone, myself included, left our profiles and photos open to the world for browsing is almost unthinkable. How much of that information could have been used to compromise security questions, catfish someone, etc. is frightening. I have a feeling in the same way we might look back on our current use of apps and websites and wonder why we would have ever agreed to terms and conditions that included the wholesale harvesting of our meta-data to sell to advertisers.

  • Michael

    Your post reminded me of a Facebook post I saw earlier in September:
    It was made by the Saskatchewan Health Authority about the RCMP’s suggestions about the “Back to School” photo.
    Reflecting on this, I thought about the numerous posts I’ve seen of my nieces, nephews, and even my young granddaughter, who isn’t of school age yet. It’s crucial for us to strike a balance between celebrating these milestones and ensuring the safety and privacy of our loved ones.
    I like the questions you raise about the role of school in addressing “sharenting”. It seems to be all part of citizenship in a digital world. Thank you for your thoughts on this.

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