Sharing too much intimate information about your child online may hurt their self-esteem later in life, says recent poll.

Pictures of children dressing up in goofy costumes – or wearing nothing at all – surface on Facebook as parents reveal intimate details about their health in chat rooms, and a new poll says this trend of “sharenting” is going too far.

“By the time children are old enough to use social media themselves many already have a digital identity created for them by their parents,” says Sarah J. Clark, M.P.H., associate director of the University of Michigan C.S. Mott Children’s Hospital National Poll on Children’s Health and associate research scientist in the UM Department of Pediatrics.

More than half of mothers and one-third of fathers say that social media offers them relief from the isolation of parenthood, according to the poll, which surveyed US parents of children up to four years old.

Sharing the joys and challenges of parenthood has become a social norm, says Clark, and common topics according to the poll include getting kids to sleep (28%), nutrition (26%), discipline (19%), daycare and school issues (17%) and behaviour problems (13%).

Almost 70% of the parents surveyed say they use social media to get tips from those with more experience and 62% reported finding it helpful, saying it helped them worry less.

“Parents may share information that their child finds embarrassing or too personal when they’re older but once it’s out there, it’s hard to undo,” says Clark. “The child won’t have much control over where it ends up or who sees it.”

Three quarters of the parents surveyed pointed to “sharenting” by their cohorts on the social media sites, identifying situations in which they posted inappropriate photos, shared embarrassing stories and problems or revealed a child’s location.

Parents should be aware of a developing phenomenon called “digital kidnapping” in which strangers help themselves to photos they come across online and redistribute them, pretending the children are their own.

Children whose parents over-share are at risk to become victims of cyber-bullying and Clark points to a particularly notorious case in which a Facebook group formed that mocked the ugly babies they came across on the site.

“Parents are responsible for their child’s privacy and need to be thoughtful about how much they share on social media so they can enjoy the benefits of camaraderie but also protect their children’s privacy today and in the future,” says Clark. – AFP Relaxnews