A new study has found that parents who regularly share photos of their children on social media tend to have more permissive and assertive parenting styles and engage their children in social media at younger ages.
These parents also tend to share posts outside of small networks of family and friends, and frequently post on more public networks, raising privacy and safety concerns. The findings also show that parents do not see parent sharing as much different from regular photo sharing and rarely ask for their young children’s input.
“There’s no doubt that many parents are very careful about what they share about their children online,” said Mary Jean Amon, an assistant professor in the School of Modeling, Simulation and Training (SMST) at UCF who is one of the researchers is. on the study. “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.”
The team of researchers from UCF and Indiana University Bloomington surveyed 493 parents who are regular social media users and have children under the age of 10. The Society for Computing Machinery: Computer Aided Cooperative Work recently published the research.
“We were interested in looking at what parents consider private when it comes to sharing young children’s information online and the perceived risks,” says Amon. “We were surprised. 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 friendly relationships with their children and offer less guidance than other parents. In particular, permissive parenting is linked to problematic internet use among children.”
The research team’s findings also suggest that parents do not strongly differentiate between parental sharing (sharing photos of their children) and general photo sharing on social media and may therefore underestimate the unique risks of sharing children’s photos online and exposing children to social media at an early age. involve. .
The study found that most parents surveyed were comfortable sharing photos and re-sharing their photos with others. Most parents felt relatively comfortable with other adults sharing their children’s photos and expected the child to enjoy the photos posted, rather than be embarrassed by them.
Although the Children’s Online Privacy Act provides many rules to protect children, the data does not lie and shows that many children engage with social media at an early age. Social media platforms have a minimum age for use (13), but without a verification system it is not uncommon to see children – some very young with their own YouTube channel or TikTok accounts. About one-third of parents with children ages 7 to 9 reported that their children used social media apps via phones or tablets, according to the 2021 CS Mott Children’s Hospital National Polling on Health. About half of the parents with children aged 10-12 reported the same.
In the survey, the team asked questions including how often a parent posted their children’s photos, as well as their own social media activity. Other questions asked about their children’s social media interest and behavior, as well as how parents made decisions to post pictures of their child. Participants had accounts on Facebook, Instagram, Twitter, Snapchat, Pinterest, TikTok, Myspace, and Flickr, with most users preferring Facebook, Instagram, and Twitter in that order.
The study raises important questions about ensuring the comfort and privacy of young children as they are introduced to social media. Research in this area also aims to help parents who use this form of communication for support in raising their children.
“There are broader questions about children’s privacy in social media, where a central question remains about how much autonomy and control children, including children of different ages, should have over their photos and information online,” says Amon.
The research team continues to investigate links between parental sharing and effects on children. For example, it is speculated that parental sharing may desensitize children to sharing their own information in social media.
Before joining UCF in 2019, Amon was a postdoctoral researcher in the Department of Psychological and Brain Sciences at Indiana University Bloomington, and then a research associate at the Institute for Cognitive Science at the University of Colorado Boulder. She holds a master’s degree and doctorate in experimental psychology from the University of Cincinnati, as well as a master’s degree in educational psychology from Columbia University. She has authored or co-authored more than a dozen papers in peer-reviewed journals in psychology, engineering, and computer science, and top publication conferences. Her primary research interests include human-in-the-loop systems, interpersonal privacy violation, and online radicalization.
Others in the research team are Research Assistant Nika “Nick” Kartvelishvili ’21 to UCF’s SMST and Psychology professors Bennet Bertenthal and Kurt Hugenberg and computer science professor Apu Kapadia from Indiana University Bloomington.