Sharenting: Are parents oversharing their kids on social media?

Posted at 4:22 PM, Mar 18, 2015
and last updated 2015-03-21 10:30:57-04

When I was a toddler, I got my arm hopelessly stuck in a dryer lint trap. Until now, that incident was between me, my parents and the jar of Vaseline.

Nearly three decades later, this would have surely been a Facebook sensation. A new study on parental oversharing, or “sharenting,” says that parents just can’t help themselves — even though most are aware of consequences for their kids.

"By the time children are old enough to use social media themselves many already have a digital identity created for them by their parents," said Sarah J. Clark, associate director of the C.S. Mott Children’s Hospital National Poll on Children’s Health.

About two-thirds of parents in the University of Michigan poll said they were concerned that someone could learn private information about their child or share their photos.

A majority said they worried that their kids would one day be embarrassed by what was shared. That didn’t stop the sharenting, though.

“Once it's out there, it's hard to undo. The child won't have much control over where it ends up or who sees it,” Clark said.

Parental sharing of embarrassing situations can lead to children being the target of jokes or cyberbullying. Some people have even taken the photos of other people’s children and passed them off as their own — a kind of "digital kidnapping."

So why keep on sharing? A majority of mothers and one-third of fathers said they use social media to discuss their child’s health and parenting. Most parents say social media makes them feel less alone and helps them get advice.

“On one hand, social media offers today's parents an outlet they find incredibly useful. On the other hand, some are concerned that oversharing may pose safety and privacy risks for their children,” Clark said.

The most common items shared by parents were:

  • Getting kids to sleep (28%)

  • Nutrition and eating tips (26%)

  • Discipline (19%)

  • Daycare/preschool (17%)

  • Behavior problems (13%)

The poll sampled 569 parents of children up to 4 years old.

Are you a "sharent?" How much is too much? Take the poll below.


Gavin Stern is a national digital producer for the Scripps National Desk.