There’s a lot of talk about monitoring kids’ online and social media activity and teaching kids how to navigate their online lives in order to keep them out of cyberbullying and other potential harmful situations. What doesn’t get as many headlines, however, is how a parent’s social media use, namely what and how they post of their children on their own platforms, also plays a massive role in children’s mental health.
A new study by password-manager service 1Password and security software firm Malwarebytes revealed that not only are kids much more savvy than their parents think when it comes to dodging parental controls, but they are also negatively impacted when parents post photos that cross the children’s personal boundaries.
According to the study, which surveyed 1,000 parents and 1,000 Gen Z respondents born between 1997-2009, 79% of parents post “images, videos, or personal information about their kids online,” with 39% believing that “it’s fine to start posting images of their kids as soon as they’re born.” Unfortunately, parents can unknowingly create risks for their own kids by posting without permission.
Posting a birth announcement with an adorable carousel of photos or a particularly silly video of a toddler on Instagram seems pretty standard nowadays. And for the most part, it seems like parents don’t take as much time to think about how these posts will affect their children as they grow; only 34% of parents surveyed said they asked for permission before posting something of their child, and 39% believe that permission isn’t needed, period.
Nearly half (47%) of Gen Z respondents feel that one of the downfalls of the internet is that “anything you do follows you forever,” including that silly but maybe embarrassing video their parent posted years prior.
One out of five parents surveyed said they posted something that embarrassed their child and/or their child asked them to take down, and 12% of Gen Z said they’ve been hurt because of what their parents posted online. One in ten (11%) of Gen Z respondents said they had been stalked or bullied because of something their parent posted.
This clashing expectations for online privacy are telling, to say the least. Parents do what they can in order to teach their children about consent across the board, but somehow, that lesson does not translate when it comes to their own posting habits. Roughly 79% of Gen Z respondents said they wished their parents would ask permission before posting a photo of them online at least some of the time.
“The permission paradox,” as the study calls this disparity, serves as a wakeup call for parents who might be a little post-happy when it comes to their kids. After all, no one, no matter how old they are, is immune to the sweet rush of dopamine that comes with the likes and comments of the digital era. Like any other part of parenting, open communication with your child about online boundaries — both what they post and what other people, including parents, post of them — is vital.