Interesting new study: The Limits of Sharenting

Michiel Walrave and colleagues published an interesting qualitative study in Frontiers on sharenting: Exploring Parents’ and Adolescents’ Sharenting Boundaries Through the Lens of Communication Privacy Management Theory (CPM):

 Specifically, CPM recognizes three general principles (i.e., “privacy ownership,” “privacy rules,” and “privacy turbulence”) to clarify the privacy-related choices individuals make when managing the disclosure of information and highlight the tensions that may arise between people when violating privacy boundaries…

…In sum, CPM theory highlights the notion that privacy is not seclusion but the choice to keep information for oneself or entrust it with selected others.

And the results aren’t at all that bad:

In general, parents try to prevent privacy turbulence by asking their child’s permission to share personal information about them. Especially as adolescents grow older, parents involve them in deciding which information is shared about them online. Moreover, some parents use functionalities of SNSs to engage in fragmented sharenting, sharing specific information about their child with a limited number of contacts (e.g., a specific group of people) rather than with their complete online network. The study results further indicate that adolescents also try to prevent privacy turbulence by adapting their privacy settings, so specific information is not available for their parents to share among their online networks. Some adolescents also used specific functionalities of SNSs by setting a warning when they are tagged in a picture, so they have to approve it before it is published online.

And the researchers have also some good advice:

Taking these privacy management strategies into account, this study aims to stimulate parents to engage in conscious sharenting behavior in order to avoid violation of their child’s online privacy. Interventions have been developed to inform parents about the risks of sharenting and reduce their willingness to post (sensitive) information about their children online (Williams-Ceci et al., 2021). Social media platforms but also schools could take initiatives to raise parents’ awareness on sharenting consequences. Parents could also be stimulated to use their privacy settings to share personal information about them and family members with a selected number of SNS users. Also media literacy training for pupils could focus on the potential consequences of sharenting and stimulate young people to initiate conversations with their parents (Garmendia et al., 2021Williams-Ceci et al., 2021). Parents and their children could, therefore, be stimulated to negotiate which content can be shared, and with whom, before posting personal information on social media. Further, adolescents should be given the opportunity to more easily alter their online presence after it has been established by their parents (Ammari et al., 2015). As children do have the right to be forgotten (also online), they should have the possibility to manage or delete their digital narrative. In sum, we highlight the importance of communication between child and parent about the child’s sharenting experiences to get insight into the child’s privacy boundaries and limits of sharenting.

Abstract of the study:

Parents sharing information about their children on social network sites (SNSs) (i.e., sharenting) is common today. However, previous work confronting parents’ and adolescents’ views on sharenting and related privacy concerns is limited. Therefore, the present study scrutinizes parents’ motives for sharenting and adolescents’ attitudes toward sharenting and negotiated privacy management strategies. Communication Privacy Management (CPM) was used as a theoretical framework. Based on 30 semi-structured interviews, two motives for sharenting were identified. Parents share information about their adolescent children because they are proud of their offspring or to inform family and friends. In turn, adolescents’ approval of their parents’ sharenting behavior depends on the content parents disclose online. Adolescents perceive sharenting as positive as long as they are nicely portrayed and positive events are shared. Additionally, both adolescents and parents are concerned about the child’s online privacy. They adopt several strategies to respect privacy boundaries and to avoid privacy turbulence.

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