By Emily A. Hay
Ultrasound photos and shots from the delivery room. Detailed descriptions of potty training hits and, um, misses. Injecting parental anecdotes into seemingly non-offspring related conversations. We’ve all been around moms or dads who share Too Much Information, right? But take that behavior (even though it comes from a good intention), mix in smart phone cameras and social media and you’ve got a recipe for “over-sharenting.”
The topic of parents who can’t help but tell the world about their little one’s every move via Facebook, Twitter, blogs, YouTube and Instagram has been in the news a lot lately. With the creator of www.stfuparentblog.com, a site that features the worst offenders, outing herself on the Ricki Lake Show earlier this month and her subsequent appearances in interviews with Katie Couric and the Today Show, it seems people are taking sides, pointing fingers and potentially forgetting the little ones involved.
Are parents unable – or unwilling – to self-edit when it comes to talking about their children on social media sites? Some people say only the occasional photo or anecdote should be shared while others say if you don’t like it, don’t look at it.
Our Hay There Social Media team members – some parents and some not — share their thoughts on how much is too much and when to hit the delete key. We certainly appreciate that we are high-volume social media users; however, through our personal and professional lenses, we each weigh in on the sensitive topic with a future focus on the well-being of the children growing up in this digitally connected world.
As a mom blogger, it’s important for me to share my family life with others so I can better connect with my readers. With that said, I never disclose my exact address on my blog or any of the social networks like Foursquare, Instagram and Twitter. Since I use Facebook to share my children’s lives with many of my friends and family who don’t live nearby, I am sure to keep my page private for our protection and only share photos with my friends list (making sure to never click on the ‘friends of friends’ or ‘public’ options). Additionally, I only accept friend requests from people I know in real life. I do occasionally post my Foursquare check-ins on Twitter, but am very selective and never check-in at my own home.
At times, I worry I share too much about my kids. But then I look at my friends and followers and realize about 80% are parents themselves. When I post things about my kids on social networks, I get a ton of positive feedback and at times, great advice. It has helped me bond with other parents and create stronger in-person relationships. I try to post a good mix of updates to share my life and opinions, but still do manage to maintain privacy for safety purposes with my kids where needed.
My friends and family on Facebook expect me and even ask me to share about my kids there. I share the things I would share if the conversation were taking place in person. If I were speaking with family at a holiday gathering or to parent pals at a soccer game, I might not share all the gory details of raising my children, but I would talk about them and share photos.
Now other social media outlets do have a different audience, so I do not share personal details about family on Twitter where I don’t personally know most of my followers. I think social media can be a mirror for face-to-face interactions. Some people know how to filter themselves; others do not!
I cringe and rush to hit “delete” every time my mom posts a picture of me on Facebook — and I’m 33! The worst pictures she posts of me are the ones from 20+ years ago, when I had glasses and braces and awful hair — and that was before the days of digital pictures and camera phones, so she had to actually make some effort to post them.
My daughter is not yet 2 and let me tell you: She is the cutest, smartest, funniest, most talented girl ever. Because of this, I feel it’s my duty to take pictures of everything she does — from eating Cheerios to wearing pants on her head — and share them, along with her adorable antics, on Facebook. Except I don’t. Don’t get me wrong, I do share photos of her on Facebook and tell funny stories about how awesome she is (and I may have posted something about potty training once…or twice), but I try to be conscious about what I am posting.
I ask myself what is my purpose in posting: To brag, or to update friends and family? Is it TMI? How many personal details am I giving out? But most importantly, will my adult daughter want to disown me for any of it? Because that’s not cool. And when I’m worried about her being embarrassed by me, it also keeps me conscious of how much info I’m putting out for non-desirables to grab.
Facebook provides a great avenue for me to stay in touch with my family and friends who are literally around the world. I am the baby of a large family and a photographer…so when I had my first child, I went crazy and created a new album of photos monthly to keep everyone up to date with his growth (and to show off how cute he is).
I have made a very conscious decision to use my Facebook for personal use and my business profile(s) for business.
I do share some silly (cute, but not totally embarrassing when they grow up) anecdotes and updates when they do something I think is post-worthy, but I also make sure that not EVERY post is about them. Posting photos and videos right from my phone is so easy, but I try to be aware of what and how much I share about my family online.
I’ve probably been guilty of “over-sharenting” in the past. Like many first-time parents, I wanted to tell everyone about the cute and funny and sweet things my child does or says. But as he grows, I realize that some pictures or quotes are better kept within the family. I have definitely pulled back and as he grows, I will pull back even more. His stories – for now – are still kind of my stories. But in a few years, his stories will be his to tell. I don’t want to embarrass him or take away his right to privacy.
Although I am not a parent, I have many online friends who have children. Facebook has taken the mystery out of what people are up to these days. Becoming a parent is a huge part of someone’s life and who wouldn’t want to show off their adorable little one? I enjoy seeing pictures of children, but there comes a time when enough is enough. Parents drill into their kids now that anything that goes online, stays online. So it is time for parents to take their own advice. These funny and cute things a child says now might not be so adorable in 10 years when they are applying to college or looking for a job. Do you really want a nude picture of your baby popping up down the road? Just think before you post.
Have I looked at a photo of a baby with frosting on her face and thought it was the most adorable thing ever? Yes. Did I do so without even knowing (or caring) who’s baby it was? Yes. In other words, I don’t have to be related or friends with someone to enjoy their sharenting. Have I seen a baby/kid photo on Facebook that I cringed when I saw it and thought, “Why would you share that?!” Yes. Have I personally shared a photo on Facebook that someone else didn’t find cute/entertaining/worthy of a share? I’m sure I have.
Even though I haven’t walked in the proud “snap & share” parent shoes, I feel I have a good appreciation for special kid moments and I recognize the good intention parents have when they post their pride and joy. I tend to judge “over-sharenting” through two main points:
- Safety is first. You might think your baby in the bathtub is as adorable as it gets, but you have to think – would you want that photo to float around the Internet for any person – or predator – to find? Also, it’s not a good idea to share nicknames and family details in social media posts because the wrong person could learn it and potentially convince, confuse or coerce your child.
- Long-term reputation. I often joke about being thankful Facebook wasn’t around during my teen years. No one wants pictures of their awkward childhood permanently archived on the Internet. Moms and dads should stop and consider, “Is this going to be a positive image of my child that will enhance his/her future?” and “Is this an image my child will thank me for sharing?” If the answer is no, don’t post it. It may not even be a photo. It could be a post complaining about your child getting detention. Sharenting and over-sharenting can become a problem if it prevents your child from being set up for success.
Now, we’d love to hear from you. Do you “over-sharent?” Tell us how much – or how little – you talk about your children on social media. Or tell us if you dislike hearing the down and dirty parenting tales or seeing hundreds of pictures of someone’s children.