New Study Says Moms Who Feel Vulnerable Are More Likely to Post Risky Info Online

Post responsibly!

Whether or not "sharenting"–the act of regularly posting photos of your child on social media—is a detrimental is often up for heated debate among parents online. Some believe that it shows the world just how much you love your little bundle of joy. Others are adamant that it leaves a permanent digital footprint without the child's consent and makes them vulnerable to online predators. Now, a new paper published in the Journal of Public Policy and Marketing offers evidence to suggest that the act of sharing photos of your children may reveal more about the parent than it does about the child.

In the first of the two studies, the researchers from the University of Tennessee at Knoxville asked 15 mothers between the ages of 24 to 40 questions regarding their feelings about social media, motherhood, and sharenting. Those who seemed most eager to post photos of their children also appeared to be going through a period of insecurity about their body, their roles as mothers, the demands of nursing, or some other stress. The researchers therefore concluded that these new moms posted personal information about their children as "a coping strategy, primarily related to seeking affirmation/social support or relief from parents stress/anxiety/depression."

In the second study, the researchers used data from the children's apparel company Carter's to explore whether this desire for social affirmation would make mothers more likely to "overshare" with a third party, potentially posting risky information about their children. Carter's posted a coupon on to their Twitter account, along with a series of questions that ended with them asking moms to share photos of their child with the line, "We'd love seeing your little one today!" The promotion received more than 1,000 tweets from 116 mothers, more than two-thirds (69 percent) of whom used language that indicated they felt vulnerable as a parent. And nearly half (47 percent) also revealed identifiable information about their child, such as their names and birthdates.

"If a mother did not express a risk factor for vulnerability … we saw less sharing of her children's personally identifiable information," the researchers wrote.

Of course, everyone feels vulnerable as a parent, so we shouldn't shame mothers who are going through a period of time when a few extra likes makes them feel better about themselves. But we all want to keep our children safe and happy. So if you are going to share photos, experts advise reviewing the privacy policies of the platforms on which you are posting and consider the legacy that the indelible image will leave. After all, parents in Silicon Valley are asking babysitters to sign contracts forbidding them to even use social media while on the job, and these are arguably the people who knows its dangers best.

And for more on how parenting has changed, check out 20 Ways Parenting Is Different Than It Was 20 Years Ago.

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Diana Bruk
Diana is a senior editor who writes about sex and relationships, modern dating trends, and health and wellness. Read more
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