Orlando (Florida) [US], April 11 (ANI): A new study led by the University of Central Florida has found that parents who post photos of their children online tend to have a more friend-like parenting style and allow their kids to use social media at younger ages.
The study was published in the journal, ‘Computing Machinery’. These parents also tend to share posts beyond small networks of family and friends, regularly posting on more public networks, which raises privacy and safety concerns. The findings also showed that parents don’t see parental sharing as much different from regular photo sharing and rarely ask for their young children’s input.
“There is no doubt that many parents are very careful regarding what they share online about their children. And there are significant benefits to sharing photos with grandparents and groups who can offer 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 conduct further research to figure out long-term impacts. This is all still so new. We’re still learning,” said Mary Jean Amon, an assistant professor in the School of Modeling, Simulation, and Training (SMST) at UCF who is one of the researchers on the study.
The team of researchers from UCF surveyed 493 parents who are regular social media users and have children under the age of 10.
“We were interested in looking at what parents consider private when it comes to sharing young children’s information online and the perceived risks,” Amon said.
“We were surprised. Contrary to previous research that highlights the significant benefits of parental sharing, our study reveals that such sharing of children’s photos is associated with permissive parenting styles. That means parental sharing is linked to those parents having more friend-like relationships with their children and offering less guidance than other parents. Notably, permissive parenting has been linked to problematic internet usage among children,” she added.
The research team’s findings also suggested 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 engaging children with social media at early ages.
The study found most parents surveyed were comfortable sharing photos and with others resharing their photos.
Most parents felt relatively comfortable with other adults sharing their children’s photos and anticipated the child would enjoy the photos posted, rather than be embarrassed by them.
Although the Children’s Online Privacy Act provides many rules to safeguard children, the data doesn’t 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 kids used social media apps via phones or tablets, according to the 2021 C.S. Mott Children’s Hospital National Poll on Health. About half the parents with children ages 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 interests and behaviour, as well as how parents made decisions to post photos of their children. Participants had accounts on Facebook, Instagram, Twitter, Snapchat, Pinterest, TikTok, Myspace, and Flickr, with most users favouring Facebook, Instagram and Twitter in that order.
The study raised 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 mode of communication to support in raising their children.
“There are broader questions about children’s privacy in social media, where a central question remains as to how much autonomy and control children, including children of different ages, should have over their photos and information online,” Amon said.