Expert Advice: Are you oversharing on social media?

By Sue Scheff on

Life is full of potential addictions; you don’t have to look too far to find them. When teens consider the concept of addiction, they likely think about cigarettes and substance abuse, but oversharing on social media doesn’t always register as a cause for concern.

Oversharing is difficult to self-diagnose, so it takes support from friends and family to bring the problem to light. Investing an excess amount of time on social media can compromise a teen’s real-life interactions, and it’s been shown to impact social and emotional development, as well as certain personality traits.

Managing privacy on social media

Posting excessively can increase the possibility for teens to be negligent (even if accidentally) with their privacy controls. This is particularly true for Facebook since many of its settings are set on a post-by-post basis.

According to a Pew Research Internet Project survey from last year titled “Teens, Social Media, and Privacy,” although a majority of teens guard their Facebook profiles with adequate privacy settings, “25 percent have a partially private profile, set so that friends of their friends can see what they post. And 14 percent of teens say that their profile is completely public.” Among the millions of social networking teenagers, 39 percent amounts to a considerable population.

Advertisers have been known to target teens on social networks to promote their brands and glean important business data — which is a concern for some parents. Despite the positive trends in teens managing online privacy, “Teen social media users do not express a high level of concern about third-party access to their data; just 9 percent say they are ‘very’ concerned.” With the multitude of high-profile data breaches over the past year, it’s short-sighted to rule out even the slightest chance of social profile data leaking out.

Five questions to understand if your teen is oversharing

To help shed light whether or not your teen’s level of social media sharing is unhealthy, here are five direct and indirect questions to ask (adapted from SmartSign’s digital detox quiz):

1) Do people in your life complain about how much time you spend on your phone when you’re with them?
2) Has your job/school performance suffered due to time spent using social media?
3) When you wake up in the morning, is the first thing you reach for your smartphone?
4) Is no meal complete without it being Instagrammed?
5) Do you check your email or social network while using the restroom?

Spending the right amount of time on social

Chances are that if you’re reading this article, you have an account on at least one or two of the following social networks: Facebook, Twitter, Pinterest, Google+, Tumblr, and Instagram. However, the list of platforms for oversharing doesn’t stop there.

Countless teens are active on newer social apps, like Snapchat. With all of the social spaces available today — and the desire to have a constant pulse on everything that’s trending locally and globally — there comes a time when the amount of time you’re spending on social media hurts more than it helps.

Remember that a dependence on social media doesn’t just include scrolling through friends’ statuses or new photos on Instagram. Posting too much, too often can have an unfortunate impact on the development of our youth.

Takeaway tips:

Consider de-cluttering your social media friends lists. Rule of thumb: do you plan on reaching out to that person in the next six months?

Remember that 15 minutes of laughter can lead to a lifetime of regret. Think before you publish a questionable picture or comment.

Your social media footprint makes a difference in the workplace. Many employers admit to not giving interviews after reading negative content involving an applicant online.

Additional information

If you’d like to learn more about how you can help your children stay safe online, here are some great resources:

E-safety issues – tips for parents 

Sharing on social media – tips for parents

E-safety advice by age 

Social networking advice

Setting controls on devices

Learn more about Sue Scheff