Children are concerned about what their parents are sharing online, according to study
As a parent, I take a lot of pictures of my kids. As a parent in 2016, I post a lot of pictures of my kids on social media. As a parenting blogger, I probably post more than you. As a world-famous (someone in Canada commented once!) parenting blogger, most of the people who see my pictures are strangers.
Should I stop?
A recent article on NPR.org discusses the dangers of “sharenting” – putting stuff about your kids online – and the increasing role children are playing in parents’ decisions to share their photos online. At a meeting of American Academy of Pediatrics, Lisa Steinberg, a legal skills professor at the University of Florida Levin College of Law, and Bahareh Keith, an assistant professor of pediatrics at the University of Florida College of Medicine, referenced a study from earlier in the year in which 249 pairs of parents of children were surveyed on their attitudes towards “family technology rules”, the children were the ones advocating for more discretion.
“The parents said, ‘We don’t need rules — we’re fine,’ and the children said, ‘Our parents need rules,’ ” Keith says. “The children wanted autonomy about this issue and were worried about their parents sharing information about them.”
On one level, this seems absurd.
I’m an adult. I have a 6-year-old and a baby. I know better than my kids, and even if I don’t, they’re not old enough yet to know that I don’t. So it’s going to be a cold day in hell before I let either of them tell me what to do and the fact that both of them actually run my household and I have basically no autonomy or control over either of them or any aspect of my life anymore is not the point! The point is shut up, because I said so.
Of course, at the same time, those kids pushing for their parents to go easy with the sharing? They’re probably right.
Our kids are growing up in this new world of constant self-promotion and eroding privacy, and it won’t be long before they have a better grasp on both how to use the technology and the consequences of using it than we do, if they don’t already. They’re going to live their entire lives immersed in this new world we’re only just getting used to. It will be second nature to them. But they still need guidance, especially when they’re young. And as every parent knows, telling your kids how to act is nothing compared to actually modeling proper behavior.
To that end, not only should more of us take stock of what we’re sharing and exercise some caution in considering how often we post information and photos about ourselves and our children online – for the increasingly prevalent reasons of identity theft, bullying, something called “digital kidnapping” in which someone else pretends your kids are theirs because people are fucking twisted – we should also listen to and respect our children’s opinions.
I’m no prude. I have a parenting blog and social media empire (again, Canada loves me!) that rely on my kids for content and fodder, and I’m not shy about sharing images and instances of them being adorable and stupid and funny and infuriating. I’m also a firm advocate for occasionally humiliating my children with evidence of embarrassing behavior in order to have some ammo to use against them down the line (read: the teenage years). That said, that evidence doesn’t necessarily need to be shared online (regardless of anything else, a secret weapon is more effective when it’s actually a secret), and I do my best not to put stuff out there that could endanger my kids, physically or psychologically.
But when it comes to everything else? I’m not too worried about it. Constantly stressing about the worst that can happen makes you unable to enjoy all the good times when it doesn’t – which is most of the time.
I don’t consider most of my “sharenting” an invasion of privacy, but it’s not always going to be up to me. If – as they grow up and their self-awareness increases – my children ever ask me not to share a particular photo or story about them? I’m going to respect that.
And then probably share it behind their backs anyway because Daddy needs HITS!