In a recent essay published in The Washington Post, a mother explained her decision to continue writing essays and blog posts about her daughter even after the girl had protested. The woman said that while she felt bad, she was “not done exploring my motherhood in my writing.”

One commenter criticized parents like the essay’s author for having “turned their family’s daily dramas into content.” Another said the woman’s essay surfaces a “nagging – and loaded – question among parents in the age of Instagram. … Are our present social media posts going to mortify our kids in the future?”

These questions are valid, and I’ve published research about the need for parents to steward their children’s privacy online. I agree with critics who accuse the woman of being tone-deaf to her child’s concerns.

However, I believe the broader criticism of parents and their social media behavior is misplaced.

I’ve been studying this topic – sometimes called “sharenting”for six years. Too often, public discourse pits parents against children. Parents, critics say, are being narcissistic by blogging about their kids and posting their photos on Facebook and Instagram; they’re willing to invade their child’s privacy in exchange for attention and likes from their friends. So the story goes.

But this parent-versus-child framing obscures a bigger problem: the economic logic of social media platforms that exploit users for profit.

A natural impulse

Despite the heated responses sharenting can evoke, it’s nothing new. For centuries, people have recorded daily minutiae in diaries and scrapbooks. Products like baby books explicitly invite parents to log information about their children.

Communication scholar Lee Humphreys sees the impulse parents feel to document and share information about their kids as a form of “media accounting.” Throughout their lives, people occupy many roles – child, spouse, parent, friend, colleague. Humphreys argues that one way to perform these roles is by documenting them. Looking back on these traces can help people shape a sense of self, construct a coherent life story and feel connected to others.

If you’ve ever thumbed through an old yearbook, a grandparent’s travel photos or a…

Mayra Rodriguez
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Mayra Rodriguez

Content Editor at oneQube
Work from home mom dedicated to my family. Total foodie trying new recipes.Love hunting for the best deals online. Wannabe style fashionista. As content editor, I get to do what I love everyday. Tweet, share and promote the best content our tools find on a daily basis.
Mayra Rodriguez
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