KIDS
March 18, 2015

Parents Who Overshare

When parents share their children's every move on YouTube or Facebook, it can create problems with privacy and identity.

“Oversharenting” is what happens when parents share too much information about their children on social media. It joins helicopter parenting as the latest potential parental pitfall.

Social media is a tremendous resource for parents — it is a place where they can vent, share information, ask advice, and find they are not alone in their sleepless nights or struggles to hold the line on junk food and screen time.

This “sharenting” has a downside, too. By the time children are old enough to use social media sites themselves, their online identities are not clean slates — Mom and dad have already posted videos of them dancing to Daft Punk on YouTube, photos of them dressing up on Facebook, or blogged about their meltdowns in preschool and potty training disasters. This loss of privacy can spell trouble for children and adults.

“By the time children are old enough to use social media themselves many already have a digital identity created for them by their parents,” Sarah J. Clark, an associate director of the University of Michigan's C.S. Mott Children's Hospital National Poll on Children's Health, said in a press release.

Michigan's Mott poll surveyed a national sample of parents of children aged 0-4 in November and December. It found that popular “sharenting” topics included getting kids to sleep, nutrition and eating tips, discipline, daycare/preschool and behavior problems.

About 70 percent of parents polled said they use social media to get advice from other more experienced parents; nearly the same number said it helped them worry less.

“On one hand, social media offers today's parents an outlet they find incredibly useful. On the other hand, some are concerned that oversharing may pose safety and privacy risks for their children,” Clark, a researcher in the Department of Pediatrics, added.

Parents see these risks, too, but they tend to see them in others. Three-quarters of the parents who were polled noted instances of oversharenting by another parent. These included posting embarrassing stories about the child, information that made it possible for others to identify a child's location, or photos that these other parents perceived as inappropriate.

Even something as simple as cute photos of your children can open the door to problems. Parents have been shocked to find the photo they took of their child at the beach decorating another person's site or blog as though the photo — and child — were their own.

Parents' photos can also set their children up for teasing and cyberbullying down the road.

As Clark says, “Parents are responsible for their child's privacy and need to be thoughtful about how much they share on social media so they can enjoy the benefits of camaraderie but also protect their children's privacy today and in the future.”

You can read more about the C.S. Mott Children's Hospital National Poll on Children's Health and suggest topics here.

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