Parents’ use of social media is associated with parenting style, study finds

A new study reveals that parents who frequently share photos of their children on social media tend to have more permissive and confident parenting styles and engage their children with social media at a younger age.

These parents also tend to share messages beyond small networks of family and friends, regularly posting to more public networks, which raises privacy and security concerns. The results also show that parents don’t see parental sharing as much different from regular photo sharing and rarely ask their young children for their input.

“There’s no doubt that many parents are very careful about what they share online about their children,” says Mary Jean Amon, assistant professor in the School of Modeling, Simulation and Training (SMST) at the University. ‘UCF, who is one of the researchers. on the study. “And there are significant benefits to sharing photos with grandparents and groups that can offer support and help keep families connected. But we need to be aware of some of the privacy issues when sharing information about children online and conduct further research to determine the long-term impacts. It’s all still so new. We are still learning.

The team of researchers from UCF and Indiana University Bloomington surveyed 493 parents who regularly use social media and have children under the age of 10. The Association for Computing Machinery: Computer Supported Cooperative Work recently published the research.

“We wanted to examine what parents consider private when it comes to sharing information online about young children and the perceived risks,” says Amon. “We were surprised. Unlike previous research that points to significant benefits of parental sharing, our study finds that such sharing of children’s photos is associated with permissive parenting styles. This means that parental sharing is related to parents have friendlier relationships with their children and offer less advice than other parents.Notably, permissive parenting has been linked to problematic Internet use in children.

The research team’s findings also suggest that parents do not distinguish between parental sharing (sharing photos of their children) and general sharing of photos on social media and therefore may be underestimating the unique risks involved. sharing children’s photos online and engaging children with social media at an early age. .

The study found that most parents surveyed were comfortable sharing photos and sharing their photos with others. Most parents felt relatively comfortable with other adults sharing their children’s photos and anticipated that the child would appreciate the photos posted, rather than be embarrassed by them.

Although the Children’s Online Privacy Act provides many rules to protect children, the data does not lie and shows that many children interact with social media from an early age. Social media platforms have a minimum age for use (13), but without a verification system it’s not uncommon to see children – some very young with their own YouTube channels or TikTok accounts. About a third of parents of children ages 7 to 9 said their children use social media apps through phones or tablets, according to the 2021 CS Mott Children’s Hospital National Health Survey. About half of parents with children aged 10 to 12 said the same.

In the survey, the team asked about how often a parent posted their children’s photos, as well as their own social media activity. Other questions focused on their children’s interest and behavior on social media, as well as how the parents made the decision to post pictures of their child. Participants had accounts on Facebook, Instagram, Twitter, Snapchat, Pinterest, TikTok, Myspace and Flickr, with most users favoring Facebook, Instagram and Twitter in that order.

The study raises important questions about the comfort and privacy of young children when introduced to social media. Research in this area also aims to help parents who use this mode of communication to support their children’s education.

“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 pictures and information online,” says Amon.

The research team continues to study the links between parental sharing and effects on children. For example, there is speculation that parental sharing may desensitize children to sharing their own information on social media.

Prior to joining UCF in 2019, Amon was a postdoctoral fellow in the Department of Psychological and Brain Sciences at Indiana University in Bloomington, and later a research associate at the Institute for Cognitive Science at the University of Colorado in Boulder. She holds a master’s and doctoral degree in experimental psychology from the University of Cincinnati, as well as a master’s degree in educational psychology from Columbia University. She has authored or co-authored more than a dozen articles in peer-reviewed journals in psychology, engineering, and computer science, and major publishing conferences. His main research interests include human systems in the loop, violations of interpersonal privacy and online radicalization.

Other members of the research team are research assistants Nika “Nick” Kartvelichvili ’21 UCF SMST and psychology professors Bennet Bertenthal and Kurt Hugenberg and computer science professor Apu Kapadia of Indiana University Bloomington.

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