teens on phoneToday's kids are practically born with a cell phone or tablet in hand. The modern-day Internet has provided contemporary youth with access to a seemingly endless amount of information. Young people also have the convenient, yet frightening, ability to remain in constant contact with peers and strangers alike.

Modern technology empowers today's youth in many ways, but it can also inflict scars which could last a lifetime. One aspect of youthful online activities, the relinquishing of personal information, has the potential to cause irreversible damage, and should be carefully monitored by parents.

How Much Sharing is Oversharing?

What constitutes oversharing online is often a subjective decision. What may be personal for one young person may not be considered so by someone else. It's best to teach young people to use a common sense approach when deciding which information should be shared online. It also doesn't hurt to have them consider the worst case scenario of their sharing activities so that they can learn to employ critical thinking skills before rushing to share.

Ask your child or teenager how they would feel if a particular post or photo made its way to a loved one, a school official, or even the police. Let them know that such extreme examples are not just remote possibilities, as news stories relate similar incidents almost every day.

The subjective nature of the concept of oversharing is the true danger in exposing private details, even to person considered a friend. Your child's friends may not be the best decision makers when it comes to protecting personal info. The ease of re-sharing digital messages or photos puts the decision making power in the hands of the recipient, who may not think twice about sending it to others.

 

Once the personal information (intended for certain recipients) leaves the circle of trust, it can spread through the community like a wildfire. Furthermore, once the information is out, it is impossible to stop or erase.

Studies show that many internet users eventually regret oversharing online. According to a study by Euro RSCG Worldwide, 39% of people aged 18-34 regret posting personal information online. A significant portion (35%) of persons within this age group have also regretted sharing the personal information of someone they know.

A whopping 51% of this group fear that family members or friends will share personal info about them that they intended to keep private. However, the future is looking a little brighter because 57% of this group feel that people share too much personal info online. It is a positive sign that many are aware of the issue.

Why Oversharing Occurs

As alluded to above, oversharing online often occurs because people lose sight of the big picture. Additionally, kids and teens are learning and growing at a quick pace and will suffer from imperfect decision making based on a lack of life experience. Teach your young family members to refrain from using social media when they are upset, sad, angry or confused. Demonstrate the benefits of making decisions with a clear mind, and instill a sense of personal responsibility in your kids.

Psychology certainly plays a role in oversharing, as well. Those who feel disconnected from people may take the step of oversharing in pursuit of feeling connected. It has also been discovered that the act of sharing personal thoughts and feelings online triggers the brain's reward system in a big way.

The Effects of Oversharing Online

The negative effects associated with oversharing can be detrimental to your child's well-being and/or their future. The stubborn perseverance of the digital form makes it possible for unwise oversharing to follow your child into the future. A high school picture taken in poor taste can easily find its way into the hands of a college admissions officer or a potential employer. 

A Kaplan questionnaire found that 31% of college admissions officers reported that they'd visited an applicant's Facebook page or other social media profile. 30% of admissions officers reported that they had turned town an applicant based on something they discovered within their social media profile. Unsavory items can also be viewed by a future dating partner or spouse. At worst, your child's actions may subject them to problems with law enforcement or civil lawsuits.

Not only can "TMI" posts threaten you child's future prospects, but they can also lead to some immediate, damaging social consequences. Personal posts can subject your child to cruel treatment from peers, or utterly embarrassing moments in public. Your child's feelings can be irreparably harmed, thus exerting a severe emotional toll in their life. This could affect your child's desire to attend school, or participate in other activities which will help them succeed in life. 

Preventing Oversharing

Merely talking to your child about the importance of keeping private thoughts and information private may not be enough. In some cases, you may need to take extra steps to safeguard your loved one's personal life. Parental monitoring products like uKnowkids can help you keep track of your child's online activities in a non-intrusive manner. uKnowkids provides an all-inclusive tool which allows you to review your child's text messages, call activity, geotagging info, and social media accounts to oversee what information is publicized. Use technology to fight technology and keep your children safe.

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Steven Woda
Steve Woda is the co-founder and CEO of uKnow, and a leader in the Internet safety and security field for over 15 years. He frequently speaks on the topics of Internet and mobile security, ecommerce and information economics. You can follow Steve on Twitter or on his blog.