Is it parenting or “sharenting”?

Questions to ask before you post that photo and embarrass your kids online.

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As you teach your kids that “what goes online stays online,” you should also think about what you share as a parent. Could the countless baby pictures or anecdotes about your teen’s friendship dramas or bad grades in math embarrass them in the future? Would you be upset if they posted the same information about themselves or their siblings? Who exactly can see your updates, photos or videos?

The Family Online Safety Institute (FOSI) wanted to learn more about whether parents are oversharing—or “sharenting”—and conducted a study with Hart Research Associates on “Parents, Privacy and Technology Use” to examine how parents model technology habits for their kids. In these focus groups, many parents shared that they posted updates, photos, and even the school’s name and location as their kids headed back to school. When asked to reflect more about what they post or their friends post about their kids, some parents started to share examples of over-the-top updates and other parents posting personal information about their families.

Most parents surveyed gave themselves an A or B when asked to grade how they are doing at setting a good example for online behavior, but other parents overshared information and had embarrassed their kids. Some found themselves spending too much time on devices or sometimes just couldn’t set restrictions on time or use of technology. Because they were busy, letting their kids online meant getting a few quiet minutes or hours to get other things done at home.

A few parents reported how much they liked sharing updates about their kids’ accomplishments because social media allowed them to publicly express their pride. One parent really wanted to share videos of her daughter’s singing but stopped herself because she thought about the potential mean comments that might occur from a public post.

Are parents’ social posts embarrassing?

According to the study, one in five parents (19%) posted something online that their child may find embarrassing in the future and 10% have said their child asked them to take down something they posted online. Luckily, only 7% said they posted something negative or critical about their child, such as bad behavior.

Parents are understandably excited when wanting to share life’s milestones, accomplishments, and their child’s development with friends and family, but a quick pause to think through what you are sharing and with whom can help minimize the risk of “sharenting.”

6 things to consider before posting

Whether its venting about behavior, sharing anecdotes on a school issue or posting a silly video of your child, take a moment to reflect on whether the content would upset your kid or if it contains too much private information. Some key questions to think about before posting:

  1. Have I updated or checked my privacy settings lately?
  2. Is this information public and should I worry about someone else sharing it?
  3. Should I limit the audience to family or close friends?
  4. Am I sharing information such as my child’s date of birth, school address, location details or other personal info? 
  5. Would my child be upset if someone came across this post when they are older?
  6. Is this story better told in person or via text message to a small group?

Learn more about how to manage privacy settings on the top social apps. There are a lot of ways to limit who can see what on social media, so you can restrict what you are sharing to particular groups of friends or just your immediate family.

Ask the expert: your teen

FOSI’s research found that 39% of parents learned something about using social media from their child and parents of teens are most likely to acknowledge learning something about technology from their child. If you ask them to help you with your privacy settings and ask about what content they consider “sharenting,” it can help you rethink your own behavior. These conversations have an added bonus of revealing what your child already knows about privacy and if they are thinking about their own digital footprint.

Use screens together

The study found that the parents who often use technology side-by-side with their child are more confident about managing their child’s technology use—so take some time to learn and explore sites and post social updates together.

Let’s face it: Parents will always embarrass their kids—Dad trying Fortnite moves at the school dance is always a hit. But, with a little communication and understanding, we can minimize social “sharenting.”

FOSI’s research project was made possible by a grant from the Digital Trust Foundation.

This article was authored by staff at the Family Online Safety Institute, a nonprofit organization that works to empower parents to confidently navigate the digital world with their kids. It was originally posted on their Good Digital Parenting blog and republished here with permission.