| Social media

“Have I said too much?” The psychological aspect of oversharing

| 24 Sep 2023

Oversharing is not just about putting one’s private information online – it also concerns communication and respecting each other’s boundaries. How can children work with their urge to overshare? And why should they always ask for consent before posting anyone else on their profile? In cooperation with a child psychologist Jarmila Tomkova, we have prepared some tips and activities that can help them find the answers.

1) View social media as a form of communication. Through posts, kids communicate with their followers, and in online messaging apps or chats, they interact with others as well. However, due to online disinhibition effect, people may feel more courageous on the internet, and they are likely to reveal more information about themselves. Since there is often no way to see the person on the other side of the screen, children cannot read their body language or social cues, and thus it is more difficult for them to establish what is appropriate to post. Remind your children that the people they communicate with online are human beings. Would they share these things with others face to face? If not, it is often better not to post them online. 

Activity tip
What does your conversation look like?

Oversharing can be viewed as a distorted type of communication, so working on your child’s communicative skills can help them recognize and avoid sharing too much. Ask your child to open their messaging apps and read through the different conversations. What do they look like? Is there approximately the same number of messages from your child as well as their friends? Are your children having a dialogue with others rather than just having a monologue? Are they giving their peers enough space to share their thoughts as well? If not, balancing the conversation is something they can work on.

2) Each of us has different boundaries. While your children may be comfortable with sharing their pictures or opinions online, some of their friends might feel differently. Before including anyone else in a post – be it a picture, or simply a written post – your children should ask for this person’s consent. That applies not only to kids, but also their parents. Without consent, sharing other people’s photos or thoughts can be perceived as inconsiderate. Children should also know that everyone has different boundaries for communication. For instance, some may be comfortable openly discussing their school grades or family situation, but others would rather skip these subjects altogether. Encourage your kids to build strong relationships with their peers, but respect each other’s boundaries, both online and offline. 

3) Feel too excited, angry, or sensitive? Sharing can wait. When something stimulating or agitating happens, your children may immediately want to share their thoughts. However, when they are emotional, it may be difficult for them to correctly determine what is acceptable to post. For instance, when they just had a fight with their friends, they may want to write an angry post on their Facebook profile. Once the emotions wear off, they may feel guilty about posting such thoughts – but anything that gets posted online can potentially stay there even after it gets deleted. Someone could, for example, take a screenshot of the angry post and save it without your child’s consent. Together with your children, work on finding other ways of dealing with strong emotions rather than posting them online.

Tip for parents
Try to see the bigger picture

When children are oversharing, it may not always be due to not fully understanding the boundary between public and private. In some cases, oversharing may be their way of asking for needed attention, or even help. If you feel like your child is sharing too much online, try to stay close. Do they feel OK? Ask them about the situation, but rather than choosing direct questions such as “Why did you do this?”, which may make your child go into opposition, opt for a sensitive tone and formulate your questions with the intention of understanding: “What was important for you when you posted this? What did you hope for when doing so?” Sometimes, children may overshare because they believe it will help them make more friends or because they crave attention from you or their peers. Try to find solutions to these issues together.

4) Encourage your children to find other ways of sharing. Make sure they have people they can talk to, be it their family, friends, or, in case of need, even a psychologist. Having a pet can also help them feel valued and needed, so they may be less likely to seek gratification online. Finally, although it may seem like an old-fashioned choice, keeping a journal can be very helpful as it allows children to learn to express their thoughts effectively and in detail without sharing too much in the online space for everyone to see.

Activity tip
Safe circle of sharing

If your children have a safe environment to share their feelings, they may be less likely to post too much online. You can do regular check-ups with the whole family – after each dinner, or during the weekends, for example. As the psychologist Jarmila Tomkova suggests, invite your children to express their positive as well as negative emotions by creating a "sandwich" of sharing. Each family member can talk firstly about something they have achieved that day, then move on to the challenges and difficulties they are facing, and then talk about something positive again, such as what they enjoyed, what pleasantly surprised them, or what they are thankful for. Each person should be given enough space to share their thoughts and the others should respond appropriately before moving on to their own achievements or problems. This way, your children will learn to share as well as listen and they will feel that they have a strong base of people they can rely on.

Why is oversharing not cyber-secure? And what data should always remain private? Learn more in the first part of the article

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