Although social media offers parents an opportunity to share useful information about their children and their health issues, a recent poll suggests many might be “oversharing,” and putting their childrens’ safety and privacy at risk.
The University of Michigan wanted to find out if parents go too far in creating a digital identity for their kids in the C.S. Mott Children’s Hospital National Poll on Children’s Health.
More than half of mothers and 1 in 3 fathers polled said they discuss child health and parenting on social media; nearly 3 in 4 parents said social media makes them feel less alone.
Sarah J. Clark, associate director of the poll and associate research scientist in the U-M Department of Pediatrics, said so-called “sharenting” means that “By the time children are old enough to use social media themselves many already have a digital identity created for them by their parents.”
It’s a social norm that “On one hand … offers today’s parents an outlet they find incredibly useful,” Clark said in a story on the U-M website. “On the other hand, some are concerned that oversharing may pose safety and privacy risks for their children.”
Common sharenting topics on social media include getting kids to sleep, nutrition and eating tips, discipline, daycare/preschool and behavior problems, according to the national sample of parents of children as old as 4 years. Nearly 7 in 10 parents said they use social media to get advice from other more experienced parents; more than 6 in 10 said it helped them worry less.
But some parents also recognized potential pitfalls of sharing information about their children. Nearly 2 in 3 were concerned that someone would learn private information about their child or share photos of him or her. More than half realized that their child might be embarrassed about what their parents shared when they got older.
“[O]nce it’s out there,” Clark said, “it’s hard to undo. The child won’t have much control over where it ends up or who sees it.”
Three in 4 surveyed parents acknowledged “oversharenting” by another parent. That description included people who shared embarrassing stories, gave information that could identify a child’s location or posted photos perceived as inappropriate.
The risks of such activity include “digital kidnapping,” when strangers “steal” a kid’s online photos and re-share them as if the children were their own.
Sometimes, children’s photos make them targets of cruel jokes and cyberbullying.
“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,” Clark said.
Highlights of the poll:
Who uses it most
- 84% of moms, 70% of dads
- 56% of moms, 34% of dads discuss child health and parenting
- 72% say it makes them feel less alone
- 67% say they get advice from other parents
- 62% say it helps them worry less
- 68% worry about child’s privacy
- 67% worry someone will re-share child’s photos
- 52% worry child will be embarrassed when older
On other parents
- 74% know a parent who overshares — embarrassing information; information that identifies child’s location; posting inappropriate photos.
See our blogs about what’s being done to protect children’s online information and underage use of social media.