Youth Fear Parents Overshare on Social Media

social-anxietyA new study from the University of Michigan’s School of Information recently found that children, age 10-17 years old, were more than twice as likely as their parents to say they’re concerned about adults sharing too much information about them online.

While past studies have often focused on adult concerns about their children’s social media use, this study examined the issue from the youth’s perspective. It turns out that youth want to be in charge of their “online image” and feel frustrated and embarrassed when their parents overshare.

In general, the study showed that youth were okay with parents sharing positive things about them, such as accomplishments, good grades in school, and taking part in sports or other extracurricular activities. Youth definitely did not think it was acceptable for parents to share embarrassing photos or venting about something they did wrong. Because they want to control their own image, children expressed a desire for parents to ask permission before posting something about them online.

One of the great things about social media is the ability to share our life story. Unfortunately, while parents may feel that their children are part of their story to tell, parents’ posts actually create a permanent and public story about their children before they even have the opportunity to decide whether they want to participate or whether the image their parents create is the one they want.

Parenting experts agree that children should have veto power over parents’ posts. Posting something online without permission can impact other people’s lives, and this is no less true for children. While it may feel acceptable for parents to express their child-rearing frustrations, these posts that are made even when our children are very young can embarrass a tween or teen later.

It was just recently reported that children in France can sue their parents for posting information about them online. While this is not the case in the United States, it is possible that such a law could be enacted later.

In addition, some of the posts parents choose to make could place their children in danger. If you decide to post photos or videos of your children online, follow these important guidelines:

  • Use privacy settings. Set the highest privacy settings on social media sites to decrease the chances that online predators can view photos you post for family and friends.
  • Avoid identity theft. Identity theft is rampant online and it would only take a few random bits of information for a thief to be able to impersonate your child. They could potentially open bank accounts, take out loans, or commit crimes in your child’s name, and because they are young, you probably wouldn’t discover the problem for years.
  • Be aware of what you share. Experts warn that many of us are not careful enough about the things we post and could place our children at risk. Posting minor facts about our kids, photos with location tags or clearly identifiable landmarks, or even discussing our children’s vulnerable feelings can make them the target of unwanted contact from strangers.
  • Discuss posts first. If there is something you would like to post about your teen online, ask their permission first. It will build trust between you and demonstrate a healthy respect that your teens need to see role modeled.


Final thoughts…

When in doubt about how much to share about your children on social media, don’t post. Scaling back is safest. And treat your children like you would a friend, don’t share things about them that might upset them or without their permission.

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