The BrightCanary Breakdown series distills research about kids, the internet, and social media into essential takeaways.
A recent study by the University of Michigan C.S. Mott Children's Hospital (C.S. Mott) surveyed parents of children ages 0-4 about how they use social media to discuss their children and share ideas related to parenting.
Many parents reported that social media is a useful parenting resource. However, the vast majority of parents (72%) also identified at least one aspect of social media sharing that worries them, including privacy issues.
What strategies do parents use to mitigate the risks of posting about their kids on social media? And what can the rest of us learn from the results?
Here’s what the study found.
In August 2023, C.S. Mott enlisted Ipsos Public Affairs, LLC (Ipsos) to conduct a nationally representative household survey. The survey was administered to a randomly selected group of parents with at least one child aged 0-18 living in their household.
C.S. Mott then compiled a report based on responses from 614 parents with at least one child aged 0-4.
Because the study data was based on self-reporting, there’s a risk of response bias. It’s unclear from the report if any measures were taken to mitigate this risk.
The study found that a majority of parents (57%) use privacy settings to restrict who can see their posts. About 30% of respondents avoid posting photos or videos of their child altogether, while an additional 5% block out their child’s face.
Other measures that parents report taking to address privacy concerns include only participating in closed groups (22%) and using their child’s initials instead of their name (5%). One-third (31%) of parents report not discussing their child at all on social media.
There are many compelling reasons for parents to limit social media sharing about their children.
For one, the rapid rise of artificial intelligence brings with it the very real concern that images posted on social media can be used for nefarious purposes such as deepfakes. In addition, pictures of children may attract the attention of child predators.
Another issue for parents to consider is their child’s autonomy. Posting pictures of children contributes to their digital footprint when they're still too young to make their own decisions about their online presence.
Here are some actions parents can take to address privacy concerns related to their child’s social media presence:
Research by the University of Michigan C.S. Mott Children's Hospital reveals parents’ concerns over the privacy and safety of their children on social media. Parents can proactively address these concerns by teaching their children about the importance of carefully considering what they post and setting their own and their child’s accounts to private.