Parents’ Social Media Use Is Associated With Their Parenting Style, Study Finds

Parents who share photos of their kids on social media have more friend-like relationships with their children and lean toward confident and permissive parenting styles.

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A mother takes a selfie of her and her daughter, and a new study links parents' social media styles ...
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It doesn’t matter whether you think social media is a blessing or a curse hellbent on destroying your sanity: It’s ever-present, it’s addictive, and learning how to navigate it with your kids is simply a part of being a parent in the surreal reality that is 2022.

A new joint study out of the University of Central Florida and Indiana University Bloomington suggests that how parents interact with social media, including how often they post photos of their kiddos to platforms like Facebook, TikTok, and Instagram, can play a pivotal role in a child’s developing relationship with the digital realm.

The research teams surveyed 493 parents who are regular users of social media and have children under the age of 10. The parents who reported sharing photos of their children on social media lean toward more permissive and confident parenting styles. They also often share posts on public accounts that stretch beyond the small network of grandparents and close friends.

Parents who shared photos of their children on public networks didn’t view it differently from any other type of content posted, like a meme or other photos, and they often did not consult their child about posting photos of them online. For some, this might not seem like a big deal. For others, it might call to mind conversations about forced hugs or other forms of affection that could negatively impact a child’s body autonomy.

“A central question remains as to how much autonomy and control children, including children of different ages, should have over their photos and information online,” said Mary Jean Amon, an assistant professor in the School of Modeling, Simulation, and Training (SMST) at UCF and one of the researchers on this study.

“We were interested in looking at what parents consider private when it comes to sharing young children’s information online and the perceived risks,” Amon said. “We were surprised. Contrary to previous research that highlights the significant benefits of parental sharing, our study reveals that such sharing of children’s photos is associated with permissive parenting styles.”

“That means parental sharing is linked to those parents having more friend-like relationships with their children and offering less guidance than other parents. Notably, permissive parenting has been linked to problematic internet usage among children,” Amon added.

The study is just part of the larger conversation surrounding children’s privacy in the information age. Some states recently introduced potential legislation that would even allow individuals to sue big tech companies like Facebook and TikTok for knowingly using addictive tactics like push notifications to keep young users glued to their screens.

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