Oversharing is not caring

In an incredibly long post on a local Facebook parenting group with thousands of members, a mother lamented about how “odd” her child was. She listed numerous social incongruities she had seen and pleaded with other members for input on how to parent her “weird” child.

Now if this parent discovered a classmate of her child had made a post on social media about how “weird” her child was, this parent probably would reported the abuse to the school. She would then likely chronicle her heroism of standing up for her helpless child on the local Facebook group.

Unfortunately for her child, he wasn’t being tormented by a classmate, but by his mother.

What makes the post much worse, the mother was clearly aware of the harm the post could cause to her child because she began the post with “If you know my child, keep this to yourself.” This mother apparently thought the best way to keep a secret is to post it for thousands of locals to see.

Either that, or she had become so desperate to hear thoughts and opinions of strangers on Facebook that she didn’t care about the harm the post could potentially cause her child.

Luckily, most parents have enough respect for their children not to knowingly demean them publicly, but some occasionally post something on social media about their children which would make them uncomfortable or embarrassed. Before posting a video of a 16-year-old doing a wacky dance in a place they thought was private, or a beach photo from a family vacation in 2018, parents should respect the privacy and comfort levels of their children.

Social media etches a permanent record of a person’s life for anyone with an internet connection to see. In a world where idiotic tweets posted at 14 force people to hire PR teams, reasonable people exercise caution with what information about them is made public. Some children may want the option to opt-out of social media exposure as they grow older, and excessive posting by parents robs them of the ability to make that choice for themselves.

Parents with low self-worth often rely on their children to get their fix of validation, and social media provides the platform. Johnny won his spelling bee? Instagram. Olivia got a wacky haircut? Great-Aunt Grace needs to know. The best part about it? The parent gets notified every time her post is interacted with, giving the sense of importance and validation they so desperately crave.

To keep this sense of importance, many parents have started outsourcing private lives and decisions to the internet. One post on a local parenting group came from a parent distressed their 12-year-old son had searched “12-year-old girls in swimsuits” on a web browser. The parent asked for other parents’ input on their son’s web search and how to handle it.

Reasonable parents know content like this is oversharing, but unfortunately a cycle emerges where the thrill of likes and engagement on social media tempts parents to post progressively more about their children. Attention received from family reunion photos might tempt a parent to post a video of their child’s music recital, then comes the video of an “adorable” dance their child did at a family gathering; eventually the cycle leads them to ask for strangers’ thoughts on their kids’ internet searches.

The parent from the original post cited “technology addiction” as one of her kid’s oddities. This parent, and many others, should wonder where that behavior may have come from.

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