More On “Oversharenting”: The Perspective Of A Media Expert

In the rapid-fire world of the blogosphere, issues can have a half-life of, well, half a day. But some of the issues raised will stay with us for quite some time. Such is the case with the recent conversations about “oversharenting.” As noted by my fellow Parents.com blogger Jill Cordes in her recent blog post on the topic, it’s tough to generate parameters on this issue because it is a relatively new phenomenon – and to a degree something we are all shaping right now. So I was curious to get the perspective of someone who studies how to raise kids in a digital world. To that end, I had a chance to pose questions to an expert – James P. Steyer. Mr. Steyer is the author of the recently published Talking Back to Facebook: A Common Sense Guide to Parenting in the Digital Age (www.talkingbacktofacebook.com). He’s also the CEO and founder of Common Sense Media, the national nonprofit dedicated to helping kids thrive in a world of media and technology (www.commonsense.org). Below you will find my each of my questions in bold, followed by Mr. Steyer’s response.

Should parents be wary about posting pictures and information about their kids on Facebook? What’s the downside? Are there precautions that could/should be taken? 

Sharing information about your kids on social networks is something we’ve seen lots of parents doing. In some ways, it’s a fun way to connect friends and family with your kids’ lives as they grow up. But like we tell kids to “self-reflect before they self-reveal,” it’s equally as important for parents to follow that advice. Everything posted online creates what we call a “digital footprint” of your life. Once something is up, it can’t be taken down. And when parents start by sharing, for example, ultrasound images, they’re ensuring their kids have a digital footprint before they’ve even entered the world! And also, there can be a big difference between sharing moments of pride like your child’s first Little League home run, and sharing something more personal. My advice for families is to use your social networks’ ability to create small, closed networks inside the larger group (for example, Google+’s circles, or Facebook’s groups) that include only those people with whom you can share more private, intimate moments with – like grandparents, aunts, uncles. And then, still be very, very careful about what you share about other people, including your kids – partly because you don’t want to potentially embarrass your children, but also because anything you post online could eventually become public.

What about other public forums, like blogs? Any tips/concerns? Any reaction to things like the recent Time magazine breastfeeding cover?

The Time magazine cover is definitely something I think is sparking this conversation. A lot of people are saying, “How is that child going to feel about this picture when he’s 13?” Thanks to the permanence of the digital world, that photo will be both referenced and searchable for years to come. There is a huge possibility that this child will be upset that his mother used him to promote her own personal views on a topic he wasn’t old enough to understand or weigh in on. And that’s a lot of what this “oversharenting” comes down to: is it about YOU or is it about your kid? If you have any doubt about your motivations … hold out.

Should parents consider that they need to model behavior for their kids? Should they not only communicate the dangers of viral information to their kids but also set good examples with their own behavior?

Absolutely – without question. Parents are the biggest role models kids have when it comes to using digital media safely and wisely. That goes for every part of digital media – from what we’re posting to how often we’re using it. For example, you can’t expect your kid to respect a no-devices-at-dinner rule if you as a parent can’t separate yourself from your BlackBerry. The same goes for your behavior on social networks. It’s part of parenting in a digital world to make sure your kid understands the tenets of safe and appropriate online behavior, and that means parents have homework to do. Stay involved, know what your kid is doing, and always set the best example you can.

 


Add a Comment
Back To Red-Hot Parenting