May 21, 2022 - No Comments!

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The Benefits
For me, the introduction to social media and blogging came about in the early 2000’s when I found myself at home with a baby, a toddler and a preschooler.

In my job, prior to having babies, I had used email and the internet but as this new parenting season unfolded, so too did new communication and sharing tools which enabled me to have connections with other mothers who, like me, found themselves now at home raising children.

I began sharing photos on Facebook, blogging about the funny stories, difficulties, sicknesses or milestones of my kids and, most importantly, established a community that, although not face-to-face, could support one another through the ups and downs. As a young parent, I now had this online place to ask questions, make suggestions and develop support through the stages of newborns, toddlers or even offer to encourage mothers going through the rollercoaster of postpartum emotions.

Moving overseas in early 2010, I began to take blogging a bit more seriously and used it as a tool for mass-communicating with the friends, family and the support network we’d left behind. It was a way of sharing what life was like in another country, the differences, the challenges and the beauty of a culture foreign to our own.

It probably wasn’t until a few years after we had moved that I had my first moment of wondering whether all this blogging (and photo sharing) really was beneficial to keep up with. By this stage, more people had begun following our journey through the blog; people who didn't know us personally. And the realisation that anything I posted about our family would “stay” forever in the virtual world became quite confronting. So I decided to ease up on the frequency of blogging, only doing updates every few months. I became a bit more vague with details too and tried to post less photos of our kids and more about the activity that we were a part of.

Facebook was still a way to communicate with “friends” though and I felt like I was pretty selective about who I would accept friend requests from etc. In reflection though, I think I was pretty typical of a "sharent" posting first day photos, anniversaries, birthdays, awards, holiday highlights, dress up days etc. In fact, because we didn’t take our photo albums overseas with us, when our kids needed photos of themselves for school projects, they worked out that they could ‘google’ their name and, almost every time, they could find what they needed on the internet.

On Facebook, I loved reading people’s positive comments towards our family and it felt nice to have a place where I could remain connected, especially with people who I only got to see once a year when we would travel home. I admit, it felt good when people would tell me that my kids were cute, that I looked nice, or how great the party I had planned turned out, until… it didn’t any more!

The Drawbacks
I started to realise that whilst it was convenient that my children could find photos of themselves online to download - other people could too. And as they got a bit older, even their friends had discovered this, and they would show my kids photos they had found of them online. It was mostly amusing but at the back of my mind I also began to feel a sense of uneasiness about it all.

It would be this one experience on an ordinary Sunday morning though, that changed the way I chose to share photos of my children going forward.

One week, my daughter was involved in an inter-school swimming competition. Swimming was something that she improved at quickly and she was rapidly growing in both her strength and competitiveness. After winning several individual and relay events, she proudly stood with her swimming team grinning and holding up the medals hung around her neck.

I was so proud of her - all that hard work she had put in - all those laps in training. We came home with a beautiful, triumphant photo of the moment and, of course, once posted on my Facebook page, the positive comments came flooding in.

It wasn’t until that weekend when we went to church that I realised what I had done. My daughter ran up to one of her favourite Sunday school leaders to tell them “her” big news… only to find that they weren’t excited... they weren’t surprised… and they didn’t even encourage her.

They just replied, “I know. I saw it on Facebook.”

The look on her face is one that I will never forget and I’m actually glad about that. I don’t want to. It was what I needed to make the necessary changes that have remained since that day onwards.

A couple of things happened that day. One was that I went and apologised to my daughter. I had taken her news and shared it without her permission. This is something that all my children have since communicated that they value being consulted about.

Since that day, I started asking permission to share their news or photos and I only share privately with certain people like their grandparents, aunties, uncles, close family friends etc. I also involve them when choosing which photo to share. Sometimes the photo I think is the best, they don’t like. And they ask me not to share that one.

On some occasions, they even ask me to permanently delete photos that I really like of them - that they don’t want kept - and that’s really hard! But I do it, out of respect.

Secondly I saw a part of myself revealed that day I didn’t really like. Why was I seeking the approval of others? What was it that I needed to figure out in my own heart so that I didn’t crave people telling me how good my kids were? Why was my self worth so tied up in what I shared?

I rarely post any photos nowadays but before I share anything, I always check my heart and intentions first and ask myself “why” I am posting this? And if it’s about me needing something back… I just won’t post it. But it’s also taken a lot of underlying pressure off me to feel a need to have the next “thing” ready to share or post. I am no longer looking for that “moment” or that “experience” to capture. I am actually just able to enjoy my family without having to think of what, or how, I am going to share our experiences, or wonder what people will think - and I like that.

The Uncertainties

These experiences are mine. There is no one way that is ‘right’ or ‘wrong’ for you and your family so please don’t feel judged or condemned. But I do think that as a parent (or a sharent) a little bit of self-reflection on this topic can go a long way. Here are three questions that we can ask ourselves.

  • Is it safe, or even ethical to publish something about someone who can’t, or doesn't, give their consent? *see link in the resources
  • Whose responsibility is it to protect my children from the dark side of social media and the internet? (And, unfortunately there is a dark side)
  • How am I exposing my kids to social media? Knowing that exposure can potentially have a significant impact on their mental, physical and emotional wellbeing.

You may be undecided about your stance on this topic right now, and that’s ok. One thing I have really appreciated from my friends is their sensitivity and respect when posting photos that have our family in it. I have lots of friends who ask me, is it okay to post this? Do you mind if I tag you in this? And I think this is a great suggestion for all of us to check first with other parents before posting and sharing images that include other people’s children. Everyone has a different level of comfort and privacy on this topic.

Nowadays, I hear many discussions about how young people aren’t being responsible with their digital identities, but as parents I think we also have a responsibility when it comes to what information we publish about our children and the effect that our "sharenting" can have on them and their futures.

Why not start a conversation by asking your children how they feel about your posting and sharing habits?

More resources:
If You Didn’t ‘Sharent,’ Did You Even Parent?” is a five-minute film that addresses themes of parenting and privacy, and fulfills the dream of all kids to turn the tables on their parents and admonish them for their behavior. It profiles three young people, from ages 7-18, as they confront their mothers over their “sharenting” — the oversharing of content about them on social media, often without their permission.

Does sharing photos of your children on Facebook put them at risk? Every time you post about your child on social media you are helping to create for them a data-rich, enduring and potentially problematic online profile. Some experts suggest we should exercise more caution.

SHARENTING: CHILDREN’S PRIVACY IN THE AGE OF SOCIAL MEDIA an in-depth legal analysis of the conflict inherent between a parent’s right to share online and a child’s interest in
privacy. It considers whether children have a legal or moral right to control their own digital footprint and discusses the unique and novel conflict at the heart of parental sharing in the digital age.

May 21, 2022 - 1 comment.

The Dark Side of Social Media

Did you know that online sexual abuse is the fastest growing major crime in the world?
On Thursday May 5th, ZOE Australia hosted a screening of the documentary, The Children in the Pictures with guest speaker Warren Bulmer, at The Classic Cinema in Elsternwick.

While many of us prefer not to focus on the "dark side" of social media, we can not ignore the fact that there is so much research and evidence outlining the risks for individuals, families and even whole communities. The Children in the Pictures is the type of documentary that every parent, carer, grandparent and teacher needs to watch. It is both eye-opening and confronting whilst being undeniably one of the most relevant and necessary awareness tools in the fight against online sexual abuse and exploitation.

Commissioner Katarina Carroll said the documentary highlights the commitment, dedication and global reputation of Argos and shines a light on what is the world’s fastest growing major crime,

“The cases covered in the film highlight the expertise of our investigators, along with Argos’ innovative investigative strategies that combined with international law enforcement collaboration, have resulted in the rescue of many children from abuse and offenders being brought to justice worldwide,” Commissioner Carroll said.

The film makers hope that this documentary encourages parents and caregivers to have important conversations with their children about online risks and how to navigate the internet safely.

More resources:

https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=lNK0OZF73CE&t=6s eSafety for parents - Online grooming

https://www.abc.net.au/7.30/inside-the-police-task-force-that-has-rescued/13565644

https://www.afp.gov.au/news-media/media-releases/afp-warn-about-fast-growing-online-child-abuse-trend

https://www.theguardian.com/society/2017/oct/07/australian-police-sting-brings-down-paedophile-forum-on-dark-web

February 12, 2022 - No Comments!

90% of People Quit Online Courses…

-Here’s why you should finish this one-

You heard about it. Initially, there was disbelief. 

But now, as you research further, you identify an overwhelming sense that you feel passionate about ending child trafficking

So late one night, as thoughts and questions race through your mind, making it hard to sleep, you grab your phone and start scrolling, looking for a way to engage and learn more about the topic. 

You click the link on the ZOE website and sign up to do the free, online, self-paced course… “How hard could it be?”... “I have a spare few hours,” you tell yourself. But 6 months later when an email reminder comes, and you recall being only halfway through the first module, you are left wondering why on earth was it so hard to get started - let alone finish.

Despite the statistics, the Pathway to Preventing Child Trafficking course 

is one that you can, and should, actually finish. 

Let’s look at some of the reasons why people might not make it through to the end of the course and brainstorm some possible solutions.

#1 The topic is too confronting.

Solution:

Child trafficking is indeed a very heavy topic. One suggestion is to have a friend or partner take the course at the same time as you so that you not only have some support to get through the hard parts, but you also have someone to discuss the content with and process the information at a deeper level. Take a moment to reflect and remember ‘why’ you started the course. What was your motivation for doing it and what do you need to do to take a step closer to seeing your goal met?  

#2 I got distracted or too busy

Solution:

Think about other areas of your life where you commit to someone else, whether it be picking up your child from school or attending your friend’s theatre production. When you commit to something, you schedule it in the diary, (if you’re like me) you set a calendar reminder and of course, you see it through. 

So, when you think about showing personal integrity, committing to doing something (for yourself) and seeing it through; be sure to also prioritise it. Set aside the time and schedule a weekly reminder to get through the content until you have finished. It could mean ½ hour each week or setting aside one Saturday and getting it all done at once. Ask someone to keep you accountable to your commitment and check in with you as you progress. 

#3 It’s not relevant! Child trafficking doesn’t happen in Australia, right?

Solution: 

“Every country in the world is affected by human trafficking.” By the end of this course you will begin to understand more about human trafficking, be able to define it, and see the important role Australians have in protecting vulnerable children. 

“As an Australian, I am absolutely shocked and appalled at the statistics I have just been informed of. I was never really aware of the involvement Australia had with child trafficking so this has really saddened me to learn this of my country. It raises the question of how our country got to this statistic and was able to harm this many children.” - course participant

So, why is the Pathway to Preventing Child Trafficking course one that you can,

and should, actually finish? 

One way that you can practically stand up for the rights of children is by learning about the problem so that you are equipped with the knowledge to fight it. Along with the online course we have videos, resources, toolkits, school curriculum and social media posts for you to remain informed and connected.  

After finishing the Pathways course you will get a certificate of completion. More importantly, though, you will add another tool to your ‘kit’ to help fight this huge problem.

For more information visit goZOE.org.au or sign up for a course.