The following is excerpted from an online article posted by StudyFinds.
Many parents enjoy posting pictures of their children on social media, but researchers from West Virginia University are warning moms and dads to think twice before sharing images of their kids. Playfully nicknamed “sharenting,” posting pictures online may seem like a fun and easy way to show off your family’s best moments, but the study cautions that it’s important to understand the risks as well.
According to Laurel Cook, associate marketing professor at the John Chambers College of Business and Economics, sharenting is a much more serious and widespread problem than most parents realize. When someone posts an image online, it’s available for countless people to see and scrutinize. Besides just the consent and privacy questions this raises, it also could leave kids vulnerable to online predators.
There’s the biological component of social media to consider as well. Positive online social interactions, including comments and “likes,” often trigger the release of dopamine in the brain. Dopamine provokes feelings of reward, consequently reinforcing social media tendencies. The more likes parents receive on images of their children, the more likely they are to keep posting.
“Much of the fodder for pedophiles is not manufactured,” Cook notes. “It comes from parents, from these public posts.”
Prof. Cook recommends never posting anything too personal. Photos of events like a birthday party can be shared after the fact, and parents should absolutely never mention specific dates, times, or locations.
It’s also imperative that parents understand both social media platforms and third-party websites collect data on users. This data includes “sharented” content which can be used to track personally identifiable information. This type of data collection can begin before a child is even born, forming a “digital footprint” that will follow the child their entire life.
“A lot more people have access to information about a minor than I think the world knows,” Prof. Cook states.
The study was published in the Journal of Consumer Affairs.