How Much is Too Much Sharing on Social Media?

How Much is Too Much Sharing on Social Media?

Just as with our kids, caution should apply for parents using social media

By now, most parents are aware of the negatives effects that social media can have on their children. Cyber-bulling, depression, anxiety, peer pressure, body dysmorphia and other negative mental health consequences on children and youth have been on the uptick since social media has become omnipresent and there are plenty of ways parents are dealing with these consequences.

But how about the parents use of social media, and in specific posting images and other circumstances involving their children? Sharenting, as it is now being called, is the practice of posting large amounts of potentially sensitive information about their children and social media. Increasingly, according to some research, sharenting is also adding to negative consequences children suffer as a result of the proliferation of social media.

What to know about sharenting
Just like with social media in general, sharenting is not innately negative. In fact, sharing pictures, achievements and other life experiences on social media can be a source of pride and good feelings. In fact, according to one study by C.S. Mott Children’s Hospital, 72 percent reported finding social media to be useful because it makes them feel like they are not alone. Receiving advice on problematic parenting dilemmas and building a support network are other positive aspects of sharenting.

With the good however, there can also be negative consequences. While parents are often hesitant to share too much information about their children and lives in person, they can be more careless online. A study conducted in Eastern Europe found that more than 42 percent of parents’ social media post included their children and of those posts, 13.9 percent posted messages containing locational information, 10.4 percent posted their children’s names, 7.1 percent posted educational and developmental content, and 5 percent posted embarrassing or private content.

The dangers can be even more frightening. According to the National Center for Missing and Exploited Children, half of the photos shared by child sexual abusers were first posted on social media by parents.

Sharenting can also set up children for emotional abuse and bullying. When parents post images of their children, and their kids have access to it, they can read comments that are not always flattering. This can lead to self esteem issues, anxiety and depression, found another study.

How should parents sharent?
Because sharenting can be a mixed bag of results, parents should proceed with caution if they choose to move forward with the practice. Harvard Law School Professor Leah Plunkett wrote a book called Sharenthood and suggested that parents only post content of their kids that they “would be comfortable seeing that post on a billboard by the side of the highway in their hometown and by every other highway in the world, now and forever. If that brick-and-mortar highway hypothetical makes you cringe, it's best not to hit “post.'”

In a study published by the National Institute of Health named “Sharenting Syndrome: An Appropriate Use of Social Media?” another potential harm of sharenting is parental neglect or abuse, including the parents themselves. The study concluded sharenting can have “negative consequences for children’s privacy, autonomy and emotional well-being.”

The rise of sharenting brings with it both positive and negative implications for children's well-being in the digital age. While sharing moments of pride and building a supportive network can be beneficial, the potential risks demand careful consideration from parents. The oversharing of sensitive information, including locational details and personal content, can inadvertently expose children to dangers such as online predators and emotional bullying. Moreover, the long-term impact on children's privacy, autonomy, and emotional health cannot be overlooked.

Parents should adopt a cautious approach, reflecting on whether the content they share about their children would be suitable for public display on a global scale. This prudent mindset can serve as a safeguard against inadvertently exposing children to harm or compromising their future autonomy. Additionally, further research and awareness are needed to navigate the complex terrain of sharenting responsibly.

Ultimately, the onus is on parents to strike a balance between sharing meaningful moments and safeguarding their children's well-being in the digital sphere. By exercising discretion and mindfulness in their social media practices, parents can contribute to creating a safer and more respectful online environment for the next generation.