Are you guilty of 'oversharenting'?

Oversharenting: Sharing online information that's embarrassing or inappropriate.
Oversharenting: Sharing online information that's embarrassing or inappropriate. Photo: Getty

Three of four U.S. parents say they know of at least one mum or dad guilty of oversharenting - sharing online information that's embarrassing or downright inappropriate, according to the newest installment of a parents survey out of University of Michigan.

Moreover, nearly 7 of 10 say they worry about privacy in this very public world of diapered divas and bathtub beauties, and half say they worry that children will be embarrassed when they're older, according to the poll.

Yet parents also say they turn to social media like Facebook and other online communities for affirmation and support - "positive reinforcement" during those tough, confusing first years of parenting.

"The biggest thing is feeling like you're not alone - whether it's 2 o'clock in the morning and (you're wondering) 'Who else is up?' or it's 'My kid won't eat anything that's orange,' and 'My kid has a weird rash,'" said Sarah Clark, associate director of the University of Michigan C.S. Mott Children's Hospital National Poll on Children's Health and a research scientist at U-M's Department of Pediatrics.

The poll is built on periodic surveys of parents across the U.S. that query parents on things such as the start times of school days to pay-to-play sports to circumcision.

In the latest poll, the researchers - many parents, themselves - wanted to size up the benefits and pitfalls of what has become a social norm in just the last few years.

They turned to 569 parents with children younger than four years old.

While parents expressed concerns about safety and privacy, "we wanted to balance those concerns with exploring 'What's the good side of this?' Because if people are doing things, they're getting something out of it," Clark said.

When it comes to sharenting, according to the poll:

Advertisement

- 84% of mums, 70% of dads do it.

- 56% of mums and 34% of dads discuss child health and parenting. Sleep, nutrition, discipline, daycare/preschool and behavior are hot topics.

- 72% of parents say it makes them feel less alone; 62% say it helps them worry less.

- 68% worry about child's privacy.

- 67% worry someone will reshare child's photos.

- 52% worry child will be embarrassed when older.

The poll also underscored that the lines around "embarrassing" and "inappropriate" differ among parents. A baby in a bubbly bath might be fine for one parent but offensive to another, Clark noted.

Just recently, a professional portrait of a sleeping infant wrapped in an American flag triggered a backlash over the flag being used as a photo prop.

And in the worst cases, a picture posted lovingly or its comments can be hijacked with cruel intentions. There are web sites that collect baby pictures for derogatory memes or to categorise some children as ugly. Another web site screeches at parents to shut up about their children, taking images from Facebook posts and berating commenters.

Even with privacy settings, there are no guarantees of privacy, Clark said: "Parents have the responsibility to be thoughtful about what kind of online identity or legacy they're creating for their kid before they get to the age when they're creating their own."

Social media consultant Christopher Barger suggests asking this question before you hit post or send: Would I talk about this at work?

When it's a concern about a strange rash, feedback from other parents is appropriate around the water cooler. If it's what to do because your son is downloading pornography, that's over the line, he said.

And the obvious bears repeating: The Internet is forever.

Those babies one day will be adolescents, writing their own online histories and sifting through pictures and posts written years earlier.

Poco Kernsmith, a professor of social work at Wayne State University, says she'll post an occasional photo of her son but to close friends only.

And it's not just her research on the topic of violence and sex offenses that limits her sharing.

It's about letting him decide what to share: "I think he should have ownership of his identity," she said.

Tribune News Services