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Contribution to book (peer-reviewed)

Book Digital parenting: the challenges for families in the digital age
Editor , Jorge Ana; Mascheroni Giovanna; Ponte Cristina
Publisher Nordicom, Gothenburg Sweden
Title of proceedings Digital parenting: the challenges for families in the digital age


In recent times there has been a huge discussion in English and German media about the existence of baby and infant photos on social media platforms. Parents share the happy family moments on their Facebook or Instagram profiles, and thus publish private scenes of their children’s lives to an extended personal networked public. This actually private media practice comes along with a lot of public critic. As the term ‘sharenting’ demonstrates, (semi-)public sharing practices of parents are mostly considered to be negative (Blume-Ross & Livingstone, 2017). But as research shows, the sharing of family photography remains a common and widespread activity among new parents, especially mothers (Ammari, Kumar, Lampe & Schoenebeck, 2015). Despite some extreme (and therefore famous) social media accounts, like for example #assholeparents on Instagram, most parents tend to relatively moderate sharing practices and tend to be quite reflective about what and what not to share in online environments. The chapter presents findings of a national funded research project at the Seminar for Media Studies at the University of Basel with the title “Picturing Family in the Social Web. A comparative analysis of the growing image-based presentation of familial occasions in participative online contexts using the example of the parenthood of the so called ‘Digital Natives’”. The visualization of communication practices is a growing phenomenon as the enormous numbers of shared pictures on social network platforms demonstrate. In addition to the specific characteristics of pictures, mostly photos, the thus resulting digital visual communication has effects and consequences on intra- and extra-familial relations. Within the intra-family-network norms and rules of sharing need to be discussed, decisions about what is appropriate to whom and who has the right to decide what to share need to be made. Mayor points here are respecting the privacy rights of children, but also teaching them how responsible media usage could and should be like. In times of social media new possibilities of one-to-some or one-to-many-communication and representation emerged for everyone. Through sharing family photography to a wide extra-familial audience the private became public like never before. Central aspects of the chapter will be: What kind of risks do parents see? How do they deal with those risks and arousing ambivalences? In which way are social norms affected and adapted in parental peer groups (what kind of conflicts do arouse and how are they solved)? And what kind of new photo practices do emerge as a consequence? Methodological backgrounds are 50 qualitative interviews and ethnographic online observations of parents of young children, who post photos of their children on social media platforms. Furthermore a family online photo guide will be introduced, which supports families in discussing these issues. This guide (please see already gets distributed by police departments and public administration offices in Germany and Switzerland.