Some parents – and even grandparents – can't resist the urge to post any and all kinds of photos and information about their kids on Facebook.
You know who you are.
But pediatricians as well as privacy advocates have some real concerns about this.
“By the time children are old enough to use social media themselves many already have a digital identity created for them by their parents,” said Sarah J. Clark, associate director of the University of Michigan C.S. Mott Children’s Hospital National Poll on Children’s Health and associate research scientist in the U-M Department of Pediatrics.
There's a term for it – “Sharenting,” and Clark says her survey shows it isn't going away anytime soon. More than half of mothers in the survey and one-third of fathers say they discuss child health and parenting on social media and nearly three quarters of parents say social media makes them feel less alone.
Safety and privacy risks
“Sharing the joys and challenges of parenthood and documenting children’s lives publicly has become a social norm so we wanted to better understand the benefits and cons of these experiences,” Clark said. “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.”
It turns out parents have some of these concerns too. Nearly two-thirds said they were concerned someone would pick up private information about their child or share photos. More than half also conceded that what they were posting about their children online could embarrass them when they were older.
Still, parents do it. When asked why, they most often said it was to gain advice. Some of the common questions are how to get kids to go to sleep, how to get them to eat their vegetables and how to handle discipline problems.
“These networks bring parents together in ways that weren’t possible before, allowing them to commiserate, trade tips and advice, share pride for milestones and reassure one another that they’re not alone,” Clark said.
But it's clearly a double-edged sword. Clark says there is potential for blurring the line between sharing and over-sharing.
“Parents may share information that their child finds embarrassing or too personal when they’re older but once it’s out there, it’s hard to undo,” Clark said. “The child won’t have much control over where it ends up or who sees it.”
While parents don't always see “sharenting” tendencies in themselves, the survey showed they are quick to pick up on it when they see it in others. Three-quarters of the parents in the poll had at least one story about extreme “sharenting,” when another parent posted embarrassing stories, posted photos that could be construed as inappropriate and even gave information that could be used to pinpoint the child's location.
It turns out that parents don't stop embarrassing their children online, even after they become teens and young adults. BuzzFeed collected numerous examples that should provide a sobering wake-up call for any parent tempted to go overboard on social media.
Spoiler alert – it's really funny.