The Impact of 'Sharenting': How Much Info Is Too Much?

Close up of young mother using smartphone in downtown city street while shopping with little daughter


Table of Contents
View All
Table of Contents

If you've spent any time on social media sites such as Facebook, Twitter, Instagram, or TikTok, you’ve probably noticed it: parents sharing news, photos, and other information about their children. This phenomenon is called “sharenting,” a combination of the words “sharing” and “parenting.” The term can be traced back to a 2012 article in the Wall Street Journal about “oversharenting,” although even before that, many parents had started posting information about their kids on social media.

Many parents may think of sharenting as an innocent way to connect with their friends and family and keep them up to date about what’s going on in their lives. After all, parents have always taken photos and shared updates about their kids. However, that practice used to happen in relative privacy.

Sharing on social media is far more public and, as a result, also more risky. Even parents who are careful about what information they share online and who they share it with run the risk of having data stolen or information used in ways they didn’t intend.

Given how new it is, the research on sharenting is still in its infancy, with the children whose parents have posted about them on social media since before they were born just now reaching adulthood.

This article will give an overview of what we know so far about sharenting, including parents’ motivations for sharing and when sharenting is a cause for concern. It will then conclude with tips for parents that will help them be as safe as possible when posting about their kids online.

Parents’ Motivations for Sharing

Much of the research on sharenting focuses on why parents choose to share online. One study found that for parents of infants, sharenting can help alleviate the social isolation that comes with this period in their children’s lives, and that a desire for interpersonal connection also makes parents especially likely to overshare during this period.

Similarly, another study found that when new mothers receive likes and positive comments in response to the photos they share of their babies via social media, it validates them as good mothers and makes them feel supported.

While sharenting is often associated with the copious number of pictures posted of babies and toddlers, parents of adolescents also share information about their kids on social media. Research has shown their motivations include communicating their pride in their children’s accomplishments and informing friends and family about their kids’ lives.

In fact, according to child clinical psychologist Laura Anderson Kirby, PhD, of Lauren Turner Brown, Ph.D., PLLC, and author of the children’s book Henrietta’s Thistleberry Boots, the ability to connect and stay in touch with friends and family in a world where people increasingly live far apart from one another is one of the positives that can come from sharenting.

Why Is There Concern About Sharenting?

Nonetheless, there are many reasons to be concerned about sharenting, especially when parents overshare or share with too many people. Here are some of the potential pitfalls and dangers of sharenting:

Oversharing and Violating Children’s Privacy

Studies have shown that 74% of parents know at least one other parent who overshares information about their kids on social media and that one out of 10 parents share information about their children’s health issues. Dr. Kirby notes that disclosing inappropriate or revealing information can become a problem in the parent-child relationship, especially as the child matures.

Sharing sensitive information, particularly if it's something the child considers embarrassing or private like details about their health or performance at school, could compromise the child’s trust in their parent.

Yet, oversharing has the potential to do even more damage. For example, if a parent reveals identifying information about their child on social media, such as their full name, home address, or birthdate, and a hacker has also managed to obtain their social security number, they could steal the child’s identity and use it to apply for credit and other services. This could cause problems before the child is old enough to start a credit history of their own.

Additionally, the cute photos or funny observations parents share online about their children could become a problem when their kids get older. In particular, colleges and employers are increasingly checking applicants’ online activity, and as a result, information posted by parents could become a source of embarrassment or affect a potential college’s or employer’s assessment of their child.

Dr. Kirby also points out that there are issues that can come with sharing with too many people. For example, when kids are young, if they are alone and come across a stranger who appears to know them because of the things their parents post online, the child could come to believe that everyone knows them.

This can cause children to have a hard time distinguishing between strangers and acquaintances, leading them to trust strangers who could potentially be a threat to them.

Shaping Children’s Digital Identities and Impacting Identity Development

By the age of 2, 92% of American children have an online presence due to their parents' activity on the internet. That means parents are shaping their children’s digital identities well before children have started to think about who or what they want to be on social media or otherwise.

While scholars haven’t yet determined exactly how this impacts children long-term, there is speculation that this could play a role in the development of their sense of self. For example, if parents share embarrassing or inappropriate information online, and their peers learn about, it could put them at risk for bullying.

This reality, or even just the fear of embarrassment, could seriously impact a child’s development, shaping their sense of who they are.

Research has shown that adolescents tend to approve of sharenting as long as what their parents post is positive. Still, sharenting can be a source of friction between parents and their adolescent children.

Children develop their identities during adolescence and also use this time to experiment with self-presentation, including on social media. Consequently, if parents have already established an online identity for their child that's led people to form specific perceptions of them, it may impact their sense of individuality and feelings of independence.

This may be especially true if the online image a child's parents create for them contradicts the online image they’re trying to create for themselves. As a result, if parents share information that’s embarrassing or that adolescents don’t want disclosed, it may lead them to withhold information about their lives from their parents so they can better control what can and can’t be posted about them.

Tips for Better Sharenting

Posting anything on social media comes with risks, and there are drawbacks and dangers that are specific to sharenting. However, it’s also possible to share information about your kids on social media while mostly avoiding these issues. Some things parents can do to ensure they're sharenting responsibly include the following.

Think before posting

Dr. Kirby recommends always asking yourself a few key questions before you post that photo or silly anecdote about your child including: What is your goal in sharing? Who will see the post? Would you worry if the post is seen by the wrong person?

If any of those questions raises a red flag, don’t share the post, or alternatively, share it with a smaller group of trusted people, such as a text chain that only includes your closest friends or a social media account that only includes members of your immediate family.

Don’t post negative, critical, or revealing information

Dr. Kirby notes that while it’s perfectly fine to post a photo of your child with their birthday cake or something from another positive occasion, as a general rule you shouldn't post anything negative about your child, including health concerns, frustrations about their behavior, or their struggles at school. This is a violation of your child’s privacy.

Post anonymously

If you’re in need of social support because of the challenges you’re facing as a parent but would have to post negative or sensitive information to do so, Dr. Kirby suggests finding a parental support group through Facebook or another online platform where you can post anonymously.

This will enable you to get the support you need, often from other parents who will be able to relate to what you’re going through, while protecting your and your child’s identity.

Get consent from your child

As soon as your child is old enough to understand what it means when their parents post about them online, parents should make sure to ask for their permission before they do so. Dr. Kirby urges parents to explain to kids what they plan to share and who will see it before clicking the share button, and to respect their children’s wishes if they say “no.”

If your child doesn’t want you to share something on social media but you really want a close friend or family member to see it, ask if they would be comfortable if you texted the image or information to that individual.

Apologize if what you share frustrates or upsets your child

If something you shared upsets your child, either because of the nature of the content or because you didn’t ask their permission, apologize. Dr. Kirby says parents should see these instances as an opportunity to model good behavior to their children while also rebuilding the trust between you.

You can let your child know that sharing embarrassing information about them without their permission was wrong and that you feel badly for violating their trust. You and your child can even delete the post together.

Have open conversations about sharing on social media

Have conversations with your child about what you post on social media and why it’s important to think critically before posting. Dr. Kirby recommends having conversations that are appropriate to your child's level of development.

For example, you might tell younger kids that the internet is accessible to a lot of people so we want to make sure that whatever we share doesn’t compromise our privacy and safety. Meanwhile, conversations with older children can get into specifics about sexual predators or other dangers that might come with sharing too much information on social media.

Don’t overshare

This is a rule parents should follow throughout their children’s lives. However, especially as children reach adolescence and start to form their own identities both online and off, parents should do their best to increasingly restrict what they post about their kids.

Never use your child’s full name

Make sure never to share sensitive information on social media like your child’s full name, their address, or anything else that hackers or criminals could use.

Use privacy settings

While they aren’t foolproof, take advantage of the privacy settings on social media sites to limit who sees your posts. 

6 Sources
Verywell Mind uses only high-quality sources, including peer-reviewed studies, to support the facts within our articles. Read our editorial process to learn more about how we fact-check and keep our content accurate, reliable, and trustworthy.
  1. Walrave M, Verswijvel K, Ouvrein G, Staes L, Hallam L, Hardies K. The Limits of Sharenting: Exploring Parents’ and Adolescents’ Sharenting Boundaries Through the Lens of Communication Privacy Management TheoryFront Educ. 2022;7. doi:10.3389/feduc.2022.803393

  2. Brosch A. When the child is born into the internet: Sharenting as a growing trend among parents on facebookThe New Educational Review. 2016;43(1):225-235. doi:10.15804/tner.2016.43.1.19

  3. Kumar P, Schoenebeck S. The Modern Day Baby Book: Enacting Good Mothering and Stewarding Privacy on FacebookProceedings of the 18th ACM Conference on Computer Supported Cooperative Work & Social Computing. 2015. doi:10.1145/2675133.2675149

  4. Haley K. Sharenting and the (Potential) Right to Be ForgottenIndiana Law Journal. 2020;95(3):1005-1020.

  5. Marasli M, Suhendan E, Yilmazturk NH, Cok F. Parents’ Shares on Social Networking Sites About their Children: SharentingThe Anthropologist. 2016;24(2):399-406. doi:10.1080/09720073.2016.11892031

  6. Ouvrein G, Verswijvel K. Sharenting: Parental adoration or public humiliation? A focus group study on adolescents' experiences with sharenting against the background of their own impression managementChild Youth Serv Rev. 2019;99:319-327. doi:10.1016/j.childyouth.2019.02.011

By Cynthia Vinney
Cynthia Vinney, PhD is an expert in media psychology and a published scholar whose work has been published in peer-reviewed psychology journals.