Tech Talk: Guilty of ‘Over-Sharenting’?
Why less is more when posting about kids on social media
As parents, we enjoy sharing our children’s adorable moments on social media. We might add a caption that gives context — and maybe a fitting emoji or two. As the comments roll in, we feel good about sharing moments, big and small, with family and friends.
This has become known as “sharenting,” and most parents do it. But let’s face it, some of us also over-sharent. Though our children may not use social media for years, they have probably been on social media since birth. Think about it — our followers may have seen our baby’s first bath, read about our toddler’s epic tantrum in Target, and even glimpsed a video of them sleeping with this well-meaning and loving caption: “Someone couldn’t stay awake to finish her ice cream!”
We parents can rest assured that our bosses, neighbors and in-laws won’t be able to search Google and find pictures of us in our birthday suit or asleep with our face in a bowl of ice cream. But, as digital natives, our kids won’t have the same luxury. At some point, they will mature, become more self-aware and begin to use more technology. That’s when they’ll want to have a say in their online footprint.
Sharenting happens on a spectrum, from sharing nothing about your child to using social media as a virtual baby book, chronicling daily moments for all the world (or at least your followers) to see. So how can you avoid over-sharing? Obviously, you can’t ask your baby’s permission, so when it comes to infants, ask yourself these questions before posting:
• Why do I want to share this post?
• Will it be something my child will want me to keep on my profile when she is 13?
• Are my privacy settings updated so strangers cannot easily view the post?
• Is this in my child’s best interest, or is it really more about me?
For school-age kids and older, ask for their permission — not only for using the picture you want to post, but for the caption you’d like to add as well. One 11-year-old girl I spoke to says she doesn’t usually mind the photo as much as her mom’s “Cutie!” commentary.
Even if young children don’t grasp the concept of social media, you can ask them, “Is it ok for me to share this picture of you with our friends and family?”
Most of all, huddling with your kids from an early age about what to post and why you want to post it will give them a head start on using social media positively and wisely. Here are three standards to discuss:
1. Why you want to share that photo: Explain what it is about a particular photograph of your child that makes you want to share it on social media.
2. Why you should protect your privacy like you’re famous: This is something we coach students nationwide on, and it applies to parents as well. Make sure your photos show only what you don’t mind the world knowing about. Be aware of what’s visible in the background, including your address, your kids’ school and your license plate.
3. Which privacy settings are possible: Talk about who will see the post. For example, Facebook’s Audience Selector tool lets you limit who can see what, post by post. (It’s located on the bottom right of the status update box.) Another good option is to create a secret Facebook group for extended family, where you can safely share everyday pictures of the kids with grandparents, aunts, uncles and cousins — without broadcasting to the rest of your feed.
Regular huddling will help you and your child(ren) navigate social media positively. Ask for their permission before sharing their photos with the world, involve them in the posting process, watch the likes/comments together and talk it all through. You’ll be equipping them with a lifetime skill.
Laura Tierney, a digital native who got her first phone at age 13, is founder and president of The Social Institute, which offers students positive ways to handle one of the biggest drivers of their social development: social media. She also recently became a mom. Learn more at thesocialinstitute.com.