Parents’ Social Media Use Tied to Parenting Style

It’s a simple fact that social media has its benefits—whether you’re updating far-flung friends and family on your toddler’s latest antics, connecting with your favorite mom group over a park playdate, or checking out what flavors that cute donut shop has in the city. the weekend. It can be a powerful tool for connection and community, but it’s not without its privacy risks.

And now, how you use social media platforms like Instagram, Facebook and TikTok — and whether you use them to share photos of your kids — can provide clues to your parenting style, one study shows.

Repercussions of ‘sharing’

The act of sharing photos of your children online without their express permission is called ‘sharing’, and has been a source of controversy in recent years, write the study authors, a team of researchers from the University of Central Florida (UCF ) and Indiana University Bloomington.

They discovered that parents who regularly post pictures of their children on social media tend to be more permissive, which is often associated with a more friendly parenting style. They also found that permissive parenting tended to be associated with earlier social media use in children.

Related: Most kids under 5 get too much screen time, study finds

The research was published in the journal Proceedings of the ACM on Human-Computer Interaction and consists of survey results from 493 parents who were identified as regular social media users and have children under the age of 10.

Participants in the study were asked to answer a series of survey questions focused on how comfortable they are with sharing their children’s photos online, whether they ask their child for permission before sharing and how comfortable they felt about strangers taking their photos of their children view.

They were then asked to answer questions about their parenting style, such as whether they explain their reasoning behind certain parenting expectations to their children, whether they ignore bad behavior and whether they consider their child’s wishes before asking them to do something.

And what they found was a strong link between parents who frequently shared their child’s photos on social media and a more permissive, friend-like parenting style.

Related: As a California First Partner and a Mom, Here’s How I Address Technology Addiction in Kids

“We were surprised,” Mary Jean Amon, an assistant professor in the School of Modeling, Simulation and Training (SMST) at UCF and one of the researchers on the study, said in a statement. “Contrary to previous research highlighting the significant benefits of parental sharing, our study reveals that such sharing of children’s photos is associated with permissive parenting styles. This means that the share of parents is linked to those parents who have more friend-like relationships with their children and offer less guidance than other parents. In particular, permissive parenting is linked to problematic internet use among children.”

Sign up early

Parents’ frequent use of social media may also be associated with children creating social media accounts at younger ages, the study authors found. All platforms have a minimum age limit of 13, but only have weak verification systems to protect access, meaning children often log in much earlier.

One-third of parents with children ages 7 to 9 report that their children use social media apps like YouTube or TikTok on their phones or tablets, according to the 2021 CS Mott Children’s Hospital National Polling on Children’s Health.

Related: A New Parent’s Ultimate Guide to Social Media

The minimum age restrictions are designed to protect children’s privacy, but the researchers speculate that parental sharing may actually desensitize children to sharing their own information even more in the future. Although more research is needed in this area, it raises questions about how best to protect and keep children’s privacy safe.

Parents who share their children’s photos may also underestimate privacy risks. “Our findings also suggest that parents do not strongly differentiate between parental sharing and general photo sharing on social media, and thus may underestimate the unique risks of sharing children’s photos online,” write the study authors.

But the job should not fall only on parents. Tech companies need to provide stricter limits and privacy protections for younger kids, as well as make parental controls easier to use, because it’s clear that social media already plays a big role in our daily lives — and will only become more prevalent in the future. .

“There’s no doubt that many parents are very careful about what they share about their children online,” says Amon. “And there are significant benefits to sharing photos with grandparents and groups that can provide support and help keep families connected. But we need to be aware of some of the privacy issues when sharing children’s information online and do further research to find out long-term impacts. It’s all still so new. We are still learning.”


Amon, MJ, Kartvelishvili N, Bertenthal BI, Hugenberg K, Kapadia A. Sharing and children’s privacy in the United States: Parenting style, practices, and perspectives on sharing young children’s photos on social media. 2022. PACM on Human-Computer Interaction6; CSCW1, Article 116.

Related Posts