Tips for Dealing With Social Media Oversharing—By Kids AND Parents

We live in a hyperconnected world. The mischief of my rural youth—cow-tipping, joy riding, messing with people at the RV park— has been replaced for my kids by YouTube, social media, and online gaming. The implications of cow-tipping don’t extend very far. The implications of the Internet, however, are potentially global and life defining. I’ve previously written about raising my son in a digital age. One of the big pitfalls parents face today is the potential for oversharing—both by their kids and by the parents themselves.

Where does one turn for tips on oversharing? Why, the Internet, of course!

The blog at FamilyTech had some great points about oversharing in a recent article:

Ease of sharing can quickly lead to oversharing. Oversharing can be described as posting too frequently, posting too much similar content, or posting “controversial” content. How do you know how much is too much? How do you avoid “oversharing?”

Start by knowing your audience. According to Pew Research the average adult Facebook user has 338 friends. Of those people, how many are going to care about your trip to the lake? Do your coworkers on Twitter need to know you had a glass of wine with lunch? Is your boss looking at your Instagram feed? Consider not just what, but who you are sharing with. Facebook allows you to limit or even exclude who sees certain posts. For example, create custom groups to share baseball pictures with grandma and grandpa.

It’s a valid point. It’s not just annoying to keep seeing kitty photos and posts about your latest kitchen concoction, it’s also a potential risk to your personal safety. One of the rules I’ve firmly implemented for my family is not to post any vacation pics until we get home from the vacation. It drives my wife a bit nuts, but I don’t want anyone to know that my house is sitting vacant while we’re lounging in a cabin in the woods.

There’s a fine line when sharing pics/vids/stories about your kids as well. A recent survey found that kids aren’t all that jazzed about not having control over what shows up on Facebook or Instagram when they’re the star of the show. It makes sense—if you or I are uncomfortable with someone sharing a video of us, imagine how an awkward tween feels about it. A report at Today notes:

They’re often frustrated, it turns out. In a new study, kids were more than twice as likely as their parents to say they’re concerned about adults sharing too much information about them online.

“Kids wanted a parent to ask them permission before posting about them,” Sarita Schoenebeck, one of the study’s authors, told TODAY.

“Embarrassment was definitely a word they often used. Permission was another one, which speaks to the sense of control — that they want to control the information posted about them online.”

It would certainly make sense for parents to be more mindful of how their kids feel about Internet posts over which they have no control. I don’t think it undermines your authority as a parent to ask your kid for permission first. In fact, it would be more likely to build the bonds of trust between parent and child. I know my kids are often eager after I take a cool or funny picture of them, excitedly asking, “Are you going to post that on Facebook?” It’s not always that way, though. Make sure to keep their feelings in mind, and take it seriously if they’re feeling socially awkward.

Next page: Some tips to avoid oversharing that apply to both parents and children:

  • As in all things parenting, be proactive and be the example you want your kids to follow. If you don’t want your kids sharing stuff that should not be on the internet, whom are they going to learn from? It can be their friends, or it can be you. Talk to them about what they’re sharing online. Don’t overshare yourself.
  • Check your settings, and make sure your kids do too. We’ve all been at that place where Facebook and Instagram make “improvements” to their security settings, and we have to go through the whole rigamarole again. Do a regular audit of your settings so that you know what’s set to public and what’s set to private.
  • Check your children’s devices regularly—both for content and for settings. Set a time limit, and have them turn in their devices at the end of every day.
  • Ensure that your child has access only to age-appropriate apps. Facebook doesn’t allow users under 13 years old (though many of my son’s friends in sixth grade have profiles). Google says its suite of products—YouTube, Gmail, Google+, Hangouts, etc.—are for those 13 and up, but very little age verification exists.
  • If you allow your child to have a smartphone, know the rules. If your kid has an Android phone, be aware that it requires a Gmail account to set it up. Make sure you have access to that email account. Also, Google+ comes automatically with a Gmail account. That means video chats, connecting with random strangers, and all the magic that comes with that. iPhones allow you a bit more control, like sharing location services with another device—a great way to ensure that your children are where they say they are.
  • Make sure you know who sees your photos. Facebook has many layers of settings that, while complicated, give the user a lot of control. You can set photos and posts to be seen only by close friends and relatives, or only by lists of folks you’ve set up, or by the entire universe. Take control of those settings.
  • There are many posts that cannot be made private. Be aware. Twitter and Facebook profile photos, cover photos, and private Instagram photos that you share with another social network are all visible to anybody.
  • Disable your location services. This is my biggest pet peeve. Often the “improvements” to social media apps reset this function to ON, meaning you may not notice that the photo you just shared shows that you’re far away from home.
  • Consider the future implications of a post ahead of time. The Internet is forever. Will this post cause embarrassment for my kid in school, in social settings, in future employment? Your kid is not property—your kid is a living, breathing individual with the same right to privacy you have. He or she should have the same ability to build their own reputation that you had as you progressed through your various stages of life.
  • On that note, teach your kids that the Internet is forever. We all know the story of Anthony Weiner. Teach your kids not to be Anthony Weiner.

I guess that really sums it up. The one rule of thumb to keep yourself and your kids safe from oversharing: NEVER GO FULL WEINER.