As a parent, you are probably concerned about your tween and teen’s use of social media. While you understand the appeal of sites like Instagram and Snapchat, you want to be sure your children are not sharing too much personal info or posting too many photos.
What makes this concern a tad ironic, is that you might not be worried about how you are representing your kids on social media. But maybe you should be.
What is Sharenting?
Almost every cute kiddo has an online presence by the time she reaches her second birthday. From newborn shots posted by proud parents on Twitter to hilarious videos of a toddler trying to eat chocolate pudding while decked out in a Superman cape that are shared on Facebook, parents are quite willing to introduce their kids to the world via social media. This tendency to share what our kids are saying and doing online is calling “sharenting,” and it definitely comes with a number of risks. For example, check out the following examples:
Children are at a high risk of identity theft, and sharenting can make them a bigger target. Those beautiful newborn shots posted on Facebook probably included the full name and birth date of your newest bundle of joy; this is enough info for a nefarious nogoodnik to open up an account in your baby’s name and start wreaking havoc. To help counteract this risk, consider purchasing a service that will monitor for and mitigate against identity theft. Pick a reputable and reliable company that offers protection for family members, including those under the age of 18.
Increased Safety Risks
The last thing you want is to put your child’s safety at risk. But if you post first day of school photos along with the full name of your kiddos’ school and their teacher’s name, you may have unwittingly done just that. As the Institute for Healthcare Policy and Innovation at the University of Michigan notes, social media sites like Facebook often add in your location to your posts, so even if you leave off your tween’s school name, the site might do it for you. Also, depending on how you have selected your privacy settings, your photos of your kids and the personal info might be able to be viewed by not only your friends and family but also all of their contacts and total strangers who pull up your page.
A Lack of Trust Between Parent and Child
Remember when you were younger and you blushed with embarrassment every time your mom shared something private about you with a friend, relative or neighbor? You probably didn’t want Aunt Betty to know your latest GPA or the lady down the block to hear about your newest BFF and what movie you just saw. Now, if you are sharing personal stuff about your tweens and teens on social media, even if you have the best intentions, you may be creating a sense of mistrust and disrespect between you and your kiddos. To make matters worse, instead of sharing a cute story with one relative or friend, you may be telling the online world about what your kids are up to, without their permission.
In order to keep your relationships with your kids as open, honest and healthy as possible, ask them what they think about your posts about them on social media. You might find that your teenage son doesn’t care if you post photos of his awesome soccer goal, but your tween daughter was mortified about your seemingly innocuous post about back to school shopping.
Your relationships with your tweens and teens are far more important than any number of “likes” and positive comments from your social media peeps. As a bonus, this approach will also make you a positive role model for your kids; it will help teach them the importance of asking permission to post photos and comments about others, and possibly prevent any privacy or other issues involving posts of their friends.
A Few Final Words of Advice
Even if your daughter said it’s cool to post stuff about her success as a debater or softball player, let caution be your guide. Ask yourself if you are fine with the whole world knowing these tidbits about your tween — because this is pretty much what will happen when you post on social media. Resist the urge to ask for advice about your children and any struggles they may be going through, and use either their first initial or a nickname to identify them.
This is a guest post. We do not represent any services mentioned in this post nor are we compensated in any way. This is strictly for educational purposes.