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What is “sharenting”?

Parents who share every aspect of their children’s lives on social media often do so with the intention of celebrating their children’s milestones and achievements, but they may not realize the potential consequences of their actions. In the eyes of the court, oversharing could be seen as not in the best interest of the child.

The term “sharenting” has been coined to describe the trend of parents sharing their children’s lives on social media. While sharenting can be a fun and harmless way to keep family and friends updated on your child’s life, it can also have serious implications in the context of family law. When parents are going through a divorce or custody dispute, their social media activity can be used as evidence in court.

For example, if a parent is seeking custody of their child and they have been oversharing their child’s life on social media, the other parent’s lawyer may use this as evidence to argue that the oversharing parent is not capable of protecting the child’s privacy or keeping their best interests in mind. The court may also view oversharing as a form of emotional harm to the child, as it could be seen as a violation of their privacy and could potentially cause embarrassment or humiliation.

In some cases, social media activity can also be used to prove allegations of misconduct or poor parenting. For example, if a parent has posted photos or videos of themselves engaging in illegal or immoral behavior, such as drug use or excessive drinking, this could be used as evidence against them in court. Similarly, if a parent has posted photos or comments that demonstrate they are not providing a safe or stable home environment for their child, this could also be used as evidence against them.

It’s important to note that social media activity can also have indirect consequences on family law cases. For example, if a parent is seeking spousal or child support, their social media activity could be used to prove their financial situation. If they are posting photos of expensive vacations or new purchases, this could be used to argue that they are not in need of financial support or have a better ability to pay support than they have disclosed.

Here are a few tips for parents who want to engage in sharenting while also protecting their children’s privacy and best interests:

  • Think before you post. Before sharing a photo or update about your child on social media, ask yourself whether it could be used against you in court. If in doubt, err on the side of caution and don’t post it.
  • Get consent. If your child is old enough to understand the implications of social media, talk to them about what you want to share and get their consent before posting anything.
  • Keep it positive. Share photos and updates that celebrate your child’s achievements and milestones, but avoid sharing anything negative or embarrassing.
  • Keep it private. Consider setting your social media accounts to private, so that only close friends and family can see your posts.
  • Don’t post during legal proceedings. If you are going through a divorce or custody dispute, avoid posting anything on social media until the case has been resolved.

There is a flip side to this. If you intend on using social media posts to support your legal position, make sure that the posts you are trying to use actually demonstrate (to a third party who doesn’t know you or your ex) what you want them to demonstrate. If you don’t, and you provide a court with a multitude of social media posts that don’t do the trick, you could yourself be admonished for this. So, be sparing and direct in what you try to rely on.

Sharenting can be a fun and harmless way to keep family and friends updated on your child’s life, but it’s important to be mindful of the potential consequences in the context of family law. Parents who overshare on social media could be seen as not in the best interest of the child, and their social media activity could be used as evidence against them in court.

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This content is not intended to provide legal advice or opinion as neither can be given without reference to specific events and situations. © 2021 Nelligan O’Brien Payne LLP.

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