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noun [countable]

a parent who regularly uses social media to communicate a lot of detailed information about their child


noun [uncountable]

'Take that eager excitement of potty training and talk about it online and you are now a sharent.'

Babble 21st May 2013

'The real reason for sharenting is narcissism. It's not a record of the child's life, but the parent's, channelled vicariously through the proxy of the child.'

ABC Copywriting 20th May 2013

Parents are programmed to talk about their kids. The whole business of caring for, guiding and witnessing the development of your offspring is such an all-consuming aspect of life that it's almost impossible to exclude it from your interactions with others. Though this is entirely natural, there are many occasions when, particularly for those of us who don't have children, this ongoing reference to the ups and downs of parenthood can become rather boring, and at worst even irritating. And in the 21st century, it appears that this phenomenon has been taken to a whole new level. Social media provides an unbridled opportunity to publicly reveal your parenting adventures – and so parents, it seems, are rapidly turning into sharents.

the immediacy and ease with which we can share information in the digital era means that sharents aren't just parents who brag a bit, but people who potentially communicate every minute detail of their kids' lives …

Sharents are mums and dads who compulsively post pictures and blog, tweet etc about their offspring. Typically in their thirties, they represent the generation who were early adopters of social media and so feel comfortable sharing their thoughts on a public platform. Now, as they enter the heady world of parenthood, it seems entirely natural to invite others along for the ride …

This practice, correspondingly dubbed sharenting, relates in some ways to that old chestnut of parental one-upmanship – cue: 'Good news, Alice has passed her grade 17 violin.', or, 'Check out this great picture of Alex scoring a goal for the under 11s!'. However the immediacy and ease with which we can share information in the digital era means that sharents aren't just parents who brag a bit, but people who potentially communicate every minute detail of their kids' lives – cue: 'trying to get James to eat spinach' #greenslimeynappies, or twitpic: 'Ella sitting on potty for first time'.

Of course nine times out of ten these sort of disclosures are just a bit of fun and there are many people who genuinely enjoy keeping up with their friends' and family's parenting exploits via social media, especially if they're not in a position to see each other regularly. However use of the new term sharent does seem to have rather pejorative overtones, usually applied to individuals who just don't know when to stop and are slow to comprehend the concept of 'too much information'.

At worst, sharenting can be considered another facet of what has been dubbed Facebook narcissism, the concept of presenting an idealized version of yourself and your perfect life, offspring etc. Critics of sharenting have also raised concerns in relation to security of the information published – once enshrined in the digital universe, how easily can it be reliably deleted, and what if it falls into the wrong hands? And a more extreme criticism highlights the psychological impact sharenting could have on children in later life, e.g. How might a young adult feel knowing that teenage arguments had been publicly documented, or could the posting of a cute picture in a silly costume lead to bullying when a child is older?

Whatever opinions prevail though, the combined impact of the social media revolution and the natural inclinations of parents mean that sharenting is more than likely here to stay.

Background – sharent

Sharent is of course a blend of the noun parent and verb share in its sense of telling someone about something.

Though dictionaries have conventionally recorded the primary sense of share as dividing or using something between two or more people, with the 'tell' sense a more subsidiary meaning, the latter is rapidly gaining ground in the 21st century and seems even likely to eclipse the traditional sense in terms of frequency. Suddenly share has become shorthand for something like 'communicate via social media', and the word crops up at the foot of every other webpage.

Share has even undergone affixation to produce the new term overshare meaning 'to give out an excessive amount of personal information'. The coinages sharent and sharenting are of course one particular manifestation of this concept, and indeed there's also evidence for use of the term oversharent (a blend of overshare and parent) as a representation of the same idea.

by Kerry Maxwell, author of Brave New Words

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This article was first published on 23rd July 2013.

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