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‘Sharenting’ on Social Media: What Parents Need to Know

Blog  ‘Sharenting’ on Social Media: What Parents Need to Know

“Although social media can be a great way to connect with family and friends, particularly those who do not live locally, it can also be a mechanism to glean information about children or their families that can be used to compromise safety,” explains Courtney Johnson, PhD, clinical psychologist at Indiana University Health.


Have you heard of “sharenting?” This increasingly popular term applies to parents sharing photos and other information about their children on social media. At a time when more and more people are using Facebook, Instagram and other social media sites to share personal details about not only their own lives but also the lives of their children, experts say now parents need to think more carefully about what they post about their kids.

“Although social media can be a great way to connect with family and friends, particularly those who do not live locally, it can also be a mechanism to glean information about children or their families that can be used to compromise safety,” explains Courtney Johnson, PhD, clinical psychologist at Indiana University Health. Here are some helpful guidelines:

Check your social settings.

“Privacy (and ultimately safety of children) is perhaps the most important principle for social media,” says Johnson. You should be regularly checking your privacy settings to ensure than any updates don’t inadvertently change who can see what you post.

Pause before you post.

Carefully consider what pictures or information you’re about to post, says Johnson. “It can be

can be helpful to ask if this would be information you would tell a friend or family member if you were talking in person,” she says. “If the answer is yes, then it’s likely reasonable for you to post it within this circle of people.” On the other hand, if it’s not information that you would share with an acquaintance, then it’s probably not appropriate to post it to a public page or outside of closed circle.

Consider the possible actions of others.

Keep in mind that ultimately, anything posted online can be forwarded or shared with others. “Friends or family may not use the same discretion as a parent, so pause to think about repercussions of information or photos being forwarded onto others who are outside of your personal control,” says Johnson.

For example, make sure any photos do not include personal information that could be used to track down someone’s address (such as a photo showing a child standing in front of mailbox or a picture of a college admissions letter with the address at the top).

Also, do not post information about events while they’re happening. “For instance, ‘my daughter’s first day away at summer camp at X location,” says Johnson. “If people know the child’s name and location, and can track down some information about you, this can become unsafe very quickly.”

Think about your motive for posting.

“If it’s to uplift a child, then it’s probably less likely to lead to negative consequences,” says Johnson. For instance, teens can sometimes act embarrassed but may actually be proud that their parents want to brag about them. On the other hand, a public post where you think you’re innocently “poking fun” at the mistake of a child may cause harm later on. “Remember that once something is online, it’s retrievable,” she adds.

Let your kids have a say. 

Involving children in what you decide to post can help reduce the likelihood of negative responses from them. “It can also help them share their perspective with you,” adds Johnson.

-- By Patricia Scanlon

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