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May 20, 2019

Do you freely post pictures of your children on social media? After capturing them blowing out the candles on their birthday cake, walking down the aisle at their eighth grade graduation, or stylishly setting off to the high school prom, do you indulge the pleasure of uploading the photos of their beaming smiles to Facebook, Instagram, or the social media site du jour?

You may want to think twice about what you're doing.

In a study reported in 2016, children "wish parents didn't post photos and videos of them online without their permission."1 Many of the youth in the study reported that they find parents' over-sharing embarrassing, and are frustrated that parents feel entitled to shape their online image without first discussing it together. This concern mirrors what's been found to be true within teenage peer groups: youth want agreements within their friendship circle about what is and isn't posted about them, as well as agreements about when to tag photos (i.e., when to attach their names to their image).2

Research has identified that many parents are bothered by other parents who they regard as routinely over-sharing text and photos of family life.3 Yet many of those bothered parents haven't recognized their own similar behavior — how their social media posting may be perceived by their own children as also over-sharing. The data suggest that kids have a desire to control their online image, which they say is undermined when their parents post freely and without their input or approval.

A discrepancy exists between the extent to which parents and children find this situation problematic, with research identifying children as twice as concerned as their parents when it comes to what mom or dad ought to post. Families would do well to talk about the topic and create agreements that honor the stated preferences of sons and daughters. A bonus to such conversations is the opportunity they provide to discuss Internet safety, issues of privacy and the importance of respecting the feelings of others.

References & Citations

1Hiniker, A., Schoenebeck, J.Y., and Kientz, J.A., "Not at the dinner table: Parents' and children's perspectives on family technology rules." Association for Computing Machinery, 2016.

2James, C. and Jenkins, H. Disconnected: Youth, New Media, and the Ethics Gap. MIT Press, 2014.

3"Parents on social media: Likes and dislikes of sharenting." Mott Poll Report (23,2). March, 2015.