Opinion | Mom and Dad, It’s My (Digital) Life

The biggest challenge to children's online privacy can be a parent who overshares. “Sharenting” — when parents post pictures and details about their children on social media without their consent (if they’re old enough to give it) — and how it can cause rifts in parent-child relationships were subjects of a recent video Op-Ed.

We reached out to more young people to find out how they felt about sharenting. From teenagers to thirty-omethings, many described feeling disrespected or humiliated.

“I find her posting to be a reductionist view of my life, as if I peaked at 3 years old,” Jake wrote about his mother’s incessant posting of his baby pictures.

Other readers were concerned about their professional reputations or future children, and talked about their struggle to wrest control of their digital identity back from their parents’ feeds.

“I wrote an explicit social media agreement that I made them agree to if they didn’t want me to block them digitally and in real life,” wrote Vera.

More of their stories follow. They have been edited and condensed. Tell us about your experience in the comments.

Readers had to be at least 13 years old to submit a response. Those younger than 18 obtained the permission of a parent or guardian before their comments and personal information were published.

‘Their social feeds make me feel naked’

I work hard to keep my personal social media feeds secure, and to reduce the amount of personal information that I’m able to share through various sites, but my parents don’t have the same privacy and security concerns. Looking on their social media feeds make me feel naked. All the barriers I’ve worked so hard to build are essentially stripped away through their posts. If I ask them to take something down, they normally will — but not without a fight, despite my own identity being at stake. I tell them it doesn’t matter how private your account may be or how closely you know all your Facebook friends, my personal information is still being posted without my consent, which is both inconsiderate and unsafe. — Paige, 17

‘As you once told me, the internet is a scary place’

My dad is much more active on social media that I am and frequently posts photos of me, often unflattering, without asking. The icing on the cake was when he posted a photo I’d sent of me with awards from an organization that I was leading. I was anxious that the photo might be seen as me taking credit for the accomplishments of a 40person, service-oriented team. It could have triggered social repercussions, albeit probably subtle ones.

Parents are often just as psychologically drawn to the positive reinforcement of social media as young people; they’re human after all. And photos of people that you and others care about naturally receive more likes, comments and shares. But social media is a constrained cyber-ecosystem of our social lives, with evolving rules and expectations that society is still trying to figure out.

Dad, Mom: You don’t know the intricacies of my life, and social media can invite backlash. As you yourselves once told me, the internet is a scary place and we should be careful about what we share. — Julie, 23

‘They wanted to reassure themselves they were good parents’

When I was 10, my parents controlled my Facebook profile and shared pictures and videos from our vacation and my hobbies to show how smart I was. It made me feel very uncomfortable and damaged my self-confidence. Though things are getting better, I’m still coping with these issues.

I understand why my parents did it: I was a lonely, weird child whom they wanted to be more popular. Maybe they wanted to reassure themselves that they were good parents by showing shiny pictures of our happy family to the world.

Parents out there, I have a message for you: Please don’t share your child’s life on the internet. Nobody really cares about your child’s pictures, and you risk taking away their self-confidence and identity. — Jules, 19


‘She had a part in creating my image, but it belongs to me’

My mother and I have gotten into full-blown arguments about her posting photos of me online. It’s hard to explain to her that while I am comfortable posting things about myself, that doesn’t give her permission to do it. Although she had a part in creating my image, my image belongs to me. — Kourtney-Ann, 20

‘Photos of my toddler body have become her brand’

I am overcome with embarrassment and humiliation whenever my mother, a frequent user of Facebook and Instagram, decides to share yet another photograph of me as a toddler. She posts so often and with such consistency that photos of my toddler body, whether covered in spaghetti or dressed up for Halloween, have essentially become her brand.

Given the fact that I am almost 30 years old, I find her posting to be a reductionist view of my life, as if I peaked at 3 years old. I am an accomplished young professional with a graduate degree, yet in her eyes I have never topped potty training. — Jake, 29

‘I’d just like my mother to ask me’

I’d honestly just like my mother to ask me before posting pictures of me. I tell her not to take pictures of me because I’m an annoying, hormonal teenager with body issues, but she insists. She knows about online security but defends the posts by saying they are only viewable by her close friends. That doesn’t make me feel any better. — Sasha, 14

‘It isn’t necessary to keep a digital record of our lives’

Think about when we all first got on Facebook — I cannot think of a single person I know who doesn’t cringe at the sight of their 2010 posts. It takes a certain maturity for people to realize that it isn’t necessary to keep a digital record of our lives. In an age when more personal information is being extrapolated about us every single day, maybe it isn’t such a good idea to allow an older, less tech savvy generation the leniency that we allowed ourselves during the infancy of social media. Now, more than ever, is a time where privacy and the understanding of privacy in the context of the digital age is necessary. — Perkin, 19

‘The way she uses social media is completely different from the way I do’

Some of my cousins requested that no photos of their kids be posted online. This struck me as odd at first, but now I completely agree. My mom still shares unflattering photos of me on birthday posts. It’s gotten to the point where I now give her preapproved images so that I know what will be sent out into the world. The way she uses social media is completely different from the way I do, and it’s hard to reconcile that. — Natalie, 23

‘They believe their world is much smaller than it actually is’

I feel disrespected when my parents post pictures of me and our family online without my consent. I don’t think they understand the gravity of it because they didn’t have to consider the issues during their own childhoods. They believe their world is much smaller than it actually is, and thus cannot empathize.

I feel sorry for children whose lives are online from their first moments in the hospital. They will have a different sense of personhood and privacy and I fear that a lot of respect is lost with this change. — Ashley, 29

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‘I hide in smaller circles to avoid my parents finding and posting content’

I despise the volume of material that my parents, both in their 60s, get from my images, words and screen captures from our personal text message conversations. I’ve all but abandoned using Facebook and Instagram and have constant fights with my parents because they consider my chosen security settings “too restrictive.”

I wrote an explicit social media agreement that I made them agree to if they didn’t want me to block them digitally and in real life. They reluctantly agreed but have violated the agreement several times. Now I hide on social media in smaller circles to avoid my parents finding and posting content without my permission.

My partner and I are planning to start a family and don’t want to post photos or anything about our future children before they can understand and really consent to this activity. But we’re worried that our parents will not comply with our wishes. We’ve delayed getting our family started because we are so concerned about their nonconsensual posting and the damage it will do to our relationships. — Vera, 34

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