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“Sharenting”

Parents who share too much information online.

Jani Bryson/Depositphotos.com
Source: Jani Bryson/Depositphotos.com

It's the holiday season. That magical time of the year when we connect with family and friends. Social media sites are buzzing with adorable festive pictures, and creative ideas from recipes to seasonal crafts. From Pinterest to Facebook, parents are capturing and sharing those special family moments, their child's wish list, and maybe even a cute video or photo of their child dancing to " Jingle Bell Rock " while wearing a diaper and Santa hat.

Yes, the excitement of spreading good cheer fills the air and with a few clicks, a snap and a send all of those in home traditions and family memories can be shared simultaneously with hundreds of people. Swelling with pride, parents can’t wait to get approval with a "thumbs up" or better yet a personalized message on their treasured post. But when we expose our family moments online are we sharing too much information (TMI)? Are we opening the doors of our homes and virtually letting too many people enter our private lives?

Sure, we are adults, and we should be able to post what we want online, right? By signing up for these sites we agree to providers using our personal data to some degree, but does that give us the right to share those cute now, but embarrassing later moments about our kids? Have our children willingly given their consent to us sharing that --- action figured PJ, sleepy-eyed, hair-mangled, opening-of-presents video of them online? If you are the parent of a tween or teen, nothing could be more humiliating and mortifying than that picture being publically displayed! Plus, who knows when and where that photo could resurface in the future?

According to research, when it comes to posting pictures of kids, parents are often the worst culprits. There is even a term used to describe the overuse of sharing TMI about kids on social media “sharenting”. The University of Michigan C.S. Mott Children's Hospital National Poll on Children's Health finds that “sharenting” isn’t going anywhere anytime soon. What’s troublesome is that a typical parent has about 150 Facebook friends and only a third of them are actual friends. So, that brings up a good question - Who are we really sharing our information with and why?

Anna Subbotina/Depositphotos.com
Source: Anna Subbotina/Depositphotos.com

A recent Pew Research Center study found that 75% of parents turn to social media for parenting-related information and social support. Seventy-four percent of online parents prefer Facebook as their social medium platform to display information about their children. Moms use the site most often (81%), but dads aren't lagging too far behind (66%). In addition to Facebook, other popular sites parents use include Pinterest (28%), LinkedIn (27%), Instagram (25%) and Twitter (23%). More than half of mothers and a third of fathers share information about their children online. The majority of parents (75%) report they know a parent who has shared TMI about their child online. Studies show that over half of them (56%) report they knew parents that shared embarrassing information about their children.

Okay fess up, most of us are guilty of posting something about our children online, but have we stopped to think about how our children feel about what is being posted? We see a lot of new parents and parents of small children creating an online documentary of their child's conquering a major milestone, or eating broccoli for the first time. Some of the pictures and videos have even gone viral!. But why do we feel compelled to capture these moments and share them with so many people? Is our desire to post personal information overshadowing what is in the best interest of our child? Do we stop and think "Is this something I'd want out there about me?" Even if our children are too little to understand and consent to posting something about them does that negate their rights?

While we don't have credible information on how young children feel about things being posted about them online, we do have information about how teens feel. According to a report by the Family Online Safety Institute , 76% of teens are very or somewhat concerned about their privacy, or being harmed by online activity. Many teens are constantly in search for new apps that allow anonymity. They use screen names that don’t reveal TMI, and apps, like Snapchat, which enables photos to expire (even though they can still be captured permanently by screen shots). If our teens are doing a better job of protecting themselves online, shouldn't we as parents take the lead and do the same? Plus, with more and more college admission representatives and potential employers scouring the internet for potential candidates, we'd hate for one of our posts to sway an important decision. Think about it… online reputations are now becoming inseparable with real life ones.

didesign/Depositphotos.com
Source: didesign/Depositphotos.com

There are those of us who may think because our settings are secure only our friends can view pictures, posts and videos. But that is not true. Even if we secure our privacy settings, that doesn’t stop others from uploading our pictures. We need to be wary of sharing TMI online, especially information about our children. So in summary, this holiday season enjoy some family time and create those special memories in the confines of your own home. If you decide to open the door to online guests, make sure what you share isn't something that is going to come back and haunt you or your child later. So, before clicking the app to upload that photo or video, stop and think twice because in the future your child may think that post was naughty and not nice. Happy Holidays!

Sources:

Family Online Safety Institute:

https://www.fosi.org/policy-research/teen-identity-theft/

Pew Research Center:

http://www.pewinternet.org/2015/07/16/parents-and-social-media/

The University of Michigan C.S. Mott Children's Hospital National Poll on Children's Health:

http://mottnpch.org/reports-surveys/parents-social-media-likes-and-dislikes-sharenting

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