A mother’s viewpoint:
It was one of those seminal life moments that would have been criminal not to record. The firstborn was off to university on the other side of the country. I knew she wouldn’t pose for a cheesy photograph, so as she walked down the pathway towards her new life, I took a crafty snap on my iPhone.
She was walking away. You couldn’t see her face. Quite honestly, it could have been anyone. I then posted it on Facebook under the caption: “And she’s off ... to Newcastle University, 300 miles away. Fresher’s Week.”
Forty-five minutes later, I received a volley of furious texts. “Take that cringe FB post down now!” “You know the rules. Don’t post!”
I had broken the sacred social media pact between mother and teenage daughter, requiring a total media blackout across all parental accounts. This rule is so draconian it also means both my daughters, Ruby, 18, and Eadie, 16, have blocked me from their Instagram, Snapchat and Facebook accounts. It was only because I am a Facebook friend with one of Ruby’s friends that she had discovered my post.
For my generation, who grew up with a single household telephone as the sole means of communication with my friends, these ever-changing social media rules are mind-boggling. Worse, the rules appear to have been drafted by our digital native children for the sole purpose of excluding us from their secret lives.
When they were little, my girls were delighted to have their pictures shared on Facebook. Birthday parties, holidays and school sports days, were all shared with impunity. But the moment they were old enough to have their own accounts, the control and rules shifted.
While on the one hand they record their lives ad infinitum, they also guard their privacy so ferociously - having learnt to create a secret world that excludes the prying eyes of all adults. Even their parents.
While it is fine, apparently, for Ruby and Eadie to liberally share pictures of themselves with their friends, my husband and I are not accorded the same rights.
My girls are also of the age that, from the moment they entered secondary school, the idea of privacy has been drummed into them relentlessly, warned of the horrors of internet grooming and the importance of shielding their accounts.
Maybe it’s no wonder that while on the one hand they record their lives ad infinitum, they also guard their privacy so ferociously — having learnt to create a secret world that excludes the prying eyes of all adults. Even their parents.
They are also acutely aware of the concept of consent, particularly as young women negotiating an increasingly feminist world.
While parents like me dip in and out of social media, for our girls it’s their lifeblood. They rarely use Facebook — “it’s for old people like you” — and Instagram is clearly a faff with all that filtering. The go-to app for all teenagers now is Snapchat. Here they can share pictures and videos of funny moments, stupid faces and any random, passing thoughts. It does leave parents like me with a sadness that we can’t share those rare moments in our teenagers’ lives when they actually make us proud.
There I was, in the car with my dad on the way to start my first semester at university, when I get a message from two friends commenting on a photo my mum had just posted on Facebook. “Awww, look at that photo of you! That’s so funny.” They added a couple of crying-with-laughter emojis.
My initial reaction was, “Oh no, what has she done now?” We had been over this countless times; no photos were to be shared of me unless she had my specific consent.
I found the photo, coupled with an unnecessarily long and wet-eyed caption about waving me goodbye to start university. I felt angry. How did she think this was in any way acceptable?
I immediately got on the phone and demanded she delete it.
The way I see it, my friends and I share photos in a completely different way to how she might. We care more about how we look because we believe that every image we post helps people form opinions about us.
Contrastingly, my mum shares photos because she feels the need to keep her friends updated on light-hearted content, which includes what my sister and I are getting up to.
My friends and I will share posts that relate to our own independence, proof in a way that we are branching away from our families. So if mum posts a pic of me looking like a wet thing, that destroys the carefully controlled image I have created for myself on social media.
She can post what she likes about her life to her friends, but she can’t post about me unless she has my consent. Surely that’s not too hard to understand?
—Telegraph Group Ltd, London 2019
DO’s and DON’Ts for teenage sharenting
■ DO secure consent from your teenager before sharing his/her image or brace yourself for a serious hairdrying.
■ DO always set your account to “private” when sharing family pics - you don’t want them being picked up by any random person, or, worse, one of their friends.
■ DON’T be friends on social media with any of their friends. That’s just creepy.
■ DON’T post comments on their feed - it’s simply the most embarrassing thing a parent can do.
■ Don’t look at their Instagram account. It will only upset you.
— Daily Telegraph