Sharenting: The downside to posting about your children on social media

It’s fun to share cute photos and videos of your kids online, but is there a cost?

Social media

Social media can help you connect to friends and family across the globe and it can help you feel connected when things get tough. Sharenting, or “parenting and sharing,” is a relatively new term used to describe parents using social media to share photographs, videos and information about their children.

Studies have shown that parents use social media for a variety of reasons and in a variety of ways. A Pew study found that social media is being used as a parenting tool and resource. They found that 74 percent of parents reported receiving support on social media, including social emotional support. Parents are using multiple platforms like Facebook, Pinterest, LinkedIn, Instagram and Twitter. A poll conducted by C.S. Mott Children's Hospital found that parents commonly shared about getting kids to sleep, nutrition, discipline, child care/preschool and behavior problems. This survey also indicated that social media helps many parents feel like they aren’t alone.

“Oversharenting” refers to those parents who overshare on social media about their children. While a parent may not see any problem with what they are posting about their children, older children have expressed concern and frustration. In a 2016 study, Alexis Hiniker, Sarita Schoenebeck and Julie Kientz surveyed parents and children about family rules and perceptions regarding technology use. They found that many children were concerned about their parents oversharing content on social mediaand sharing without the child’s permission. They reported feeling embarrassed and frustrated that their parents made decisions about their online presence without consulting them.

Should you be consented about sharenting or oversharenting? The overall consensus is yes. According to the American Academy of Pediatrics, there are risks associated with posting about your child online.

Your child doesn’t get a say. We give children choices about all sorts of things. To empower and protect children, we teach them to take ownership of their bodies by letting them choose if they want to kiss or hug relatives and teaching body safety. We teach them to respect privacy, like knocking before you enter a room. However, when we post about them without their consent, we are not respecting their self-ownership, privacy or opinions.

You do not have control. Once you post something on social media, it belongs to the world. You cannot control who has access to it or how someone might use it. Even when your profiles are kept private or locked down, you do not have control over what someone you gave access to it might do with it. Many parents have faced digital kidnapping, when someone on the internet “steals” a picture of your child and uses it on social media to claim that it’s their own child.

There are very real safety concerns. When you post specific information about your child online, like their full name, age, where they go to school or child care, you risk someone you don’t trust being able to gain access to your child. Innocent photos and videos have also made their way to explicit adult-oriented and other unsavory sites.

For more articles on child development, academic success, parenting and life skill development, please visit the Michigan State University Extension website.

To learn about the positive impact children and families experience due to MSU Extension programs, read our 2017 impact report. Additional impact reports, highlighting even more ways Michigan 4-H and MSU Extension positively impacted individuals and communities in 2017, can be downloaded from the Michigan 4-H website.

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