There is a lot of talk about monitoring children’s online and social media activity, and teaching children to navigate their online lives to protect them from cyberbullying and other potentially harmful situations. What doesn’t make as many headlines, however, is how parents use social media, namely what and how they post about their children on their platforms, also plays a huge role in children’s mental health.
A new study by password management service 1Password and security software firm Malwarebytes has found that not only are kids a lot smarter than their parents think when it comes to evading parental controls, they’re also negatively affected when their parents post photos, which overlap children’s personal data. limits
According to the study, which surveyed 1,000 parents and 1,000 Gen Z respondents born 1997-2009, 79% of parents post “pictures, videos, or personal information about their children online,” and 39% think “it’s okay to start posting . images of their children as soon as they are born.” Unfortunately, parents can unknowingly put their own children at risk by posting without permission.
Posting a baby announcement with an adorable carousel of photos or a particularly silly baby video on Instagram seems pretty standard these days. And for the most part, parents don’t seem to spend much time thinking about how these publications will affect their children when they grow up; only 34% of parents surveyed said they asked for permission before posting anything about their child, and 39% said they didn’t need permission, period.
Almost half (47%) of Gen Z respondents believe that one of the downsides of the Internet is that “everything you do follows you forever,” including that silly but possibly embarrassing video their parents posted many years ago.
One in five parents surveyed said they had posted something that embarrassed their child and/or had their child take it down, and 12% of Gen Zers said they had been hurt by something their parent had posted online. One in ten (11%) Gen Z respondents said they were harassed or bullied because of something their parents posted.
These conflicting expectations for online privacy are telling, to say the least. Parents do their best to teach their children the principles of consent in all areas, but somehow that lesson doesn’t extend to their own posting habits. Some 79% of Gen Z respondents said they would like their parents to at least ask permission before posting a photo of them online some time
The “paradox of permission,” as the study calls this discrepancy, serves as a wake-up call for parents who may be a little too happy when it comes to their children. After all, no one, no matter how old, is immune to the sweet rush of dopamine that comes with the likes and comments of the digital age. As with any other part of parenting, being open with your child about limits online — both for what they post and what other people, including their parents, post — is vital.