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November 14, 2023

Ask Lisa Podcast - Episode 144

How Much Should I Share About My Kids?

Episode 144

Parents can feel worried when their teen first starts driving or riding around in friends’ cars. What can parents do to help teens stay safe behind the wheel? What rules should be put in place and how well do those rules work? Dr. Lisa and Reena answer these questions and more while also addressing graduated drivers’ license laws and the part they play in reducing accidents among young drivers.

November 14, 2023 | 29 min

Transcript | How Much Should I Share About My Kids?

TRANSCRIPT | HOW MUCH SHOULD I SHARE ABOUT MY KIDS?

Ask Lisa Podcast, Ep. 144: How much should I share about my kids?

The Ask Lisa Podcast does not constitute medical advice and is not a substitute for professional mental health advice, diagnosis or treatment. If you have concerns about your child’s well-being, consult a physician or mental health professional.

The following transcript has been automatically generated by an AI system and should be used for informational purposes only. We cannot guarantee the accuracy, completeness, or timeliness of the information provided.

——

Reena Ninan
Does it feel nippy in the air now that it’s beginning of November?

Lisa Damour
I love it. I mean I fall in has always been my favorite season. And it’s so funny when summer is ending people like oh, it’s the end of summer. Yes, yeah. But it’s beginning of fall. I’m very glad to be deepened at this point.

Reena Ninan
No, you’re absolutely right and into routines and thinking about various things that can affect our children. And among them is how much do you share? You know, I worry about this. Also, with social media, as you know, there’s always this whole argument and debate about are you oversharing or whatnot. But I want to read this letter that was really beautiful that someone said about sharing and your kids it says Dear Dr. Lisa and Reena, my extended family communicates very regularly via text probably too much. As the four grandkids get older, I’m starting to feel like I’m sharing things about their days that aren’t mine to share. I really noticed this on the first day of school this fall. And now it’s weighing on me as my niece’s got out of their first day of school, we all got updates on how their days went. And I did the same when my kids were getting out of their first days. I think my concerns are number one, are we doing harm by sharing their stories and experiences and experimentation? It seems as though every story is out there. But I don’t want them to think I’m keeping anything a secret or that I’m ashamed of anything that they’re doing, because I’m not sharing it. And number two is emotionally stunting them by not allowing them to decide what to share. Also, it seems worth adding that none of us share on social media. Thanks, I love your podcast. I love this. I love that you mentioned social media at the end. But I guess the big question is I never thought about this way on like a whatsapp chat or text chat that you might be sharing stuff your kids don’t want to especially at that age. Is this mom, right? Does she right to worry? Are we doing more harm by by sharing too much about our kids?

Lisa Damour
It’s a really, really important question. And I love the way she frames it the way she thinks it through. And also that she gives us like sharing with family versus sharing on social media, right that those are two different worlds. So when we think about things like this, you know, I think one of the things I really value in terms of how you and I think together is we’re not very often going to tell parents what to do, right? I mean, there’s very rarely times when there’s a very clear like you should or should not do, you know, fill in the blank. But what we can do is we can really take time to think like Well, how should we think about sharing? Like, what does it mean to share? And why do we share? And then think about the pros of that. And the cons of that from the side of the kid.

Reena Ninan
I have never, especially on social media thought about what does it mean to share and why am I sharing it?

Lisa Damour
Okay, so let’s just stay in the universe of social media for a minute and then take it to like a more private family chat. Why do we share about our kids?

Reena Ninan
Maybe you feel proud or you feel good about something and it looks nice. And you know very often on Instagram that those great family photos that aren’t really the reality behind the photo. Wow, this is like what the picture frame image of us should be.

Lisa Damour
Yeah, okay. But you just said two things in there that I think are both true and real. One more positive than the other. So part of it and I think this is big. We’re proud of our kids like and that there’s something so wonderful about like, my kids awesome. I really like my kid I want to show you my kid I like a lot right? I mean there’s there’s something pure and honest and I think love play in that, and then either separate or read on top of that there can also be, don’t be all look great.

Reena Ninan
Yeah, exactly.

Lisa Damour
Even if like, you know, it’s not the vanity, about pure it’s like, like look at our happy little family here, right? So there can be a flexing as teenagers would say, you know, that goes alongside that. So that’s why we share. I’m sure there’s other reasons, but I think you’d like those are the big ones. And then we have to think about, well, what does it mean for the kid on in the photo? Right, like or in the picture? Or whose you know, activities are being described on social media or not? What do you think?

Reena Ninan
I just have never posed that question. Why am I sharing this? And what does it mean for my kid to, and I love how she what a thoughtful parent, I mean, the community of people around the athletes, a podcast appearance, and the questions that we get emailed to us are unbelievable, but that that this parent cares enough to think, well, maybe the texting and going back and forth, it’s not mine to share. But how do I know what is mine to share? And when there’s like a clear line of demarcation.

Lisa Damour
So this is where I mean, this is probably the key question both in family text and on social media, right? So we actually studied this, there’s some research on parents sharing about kids on social media and kids feelings about it. And the research has some interesting findings. One is kids feel the parent should be asking permission more than they’re asking. Interestingly, parents also feel that they should be asking permission more than they’re asking, like they know it. They know, I should probably be asking. And so then, in terms of the findings about what kids were okay, with, right? Like what’s okay to share. We can just put these all under the heading of social science coming up with common sense results, as we often do, like no big surprises, kids as a group, and these are, you know, broad research study, so they don’t describe any one child’s opinions. They were okay with things that made them look good. Kids are like us, right? So if it’s like a cool sports photo, or even they said, like, if I look good in the photo, like, I’m okay with it. They were unsurprisingly not okay, that had a negative with stuff that was negative, right? Or that they felt could make them look bad. So to this letter writers question about like, are we sharing too much about experiences or experimentation? I think, okay, there’s an answer from kids who were studied, like, if you’re telling them about things about me that aren’t good, or that I messed up? My hunch is that most kids would be like, don’t tell the family and sure as heck do not post that on social media and writing. But the really interesting question, or the much harder question was, the kid said they didn’t want anything shared that felt to them to private, and may not like this is a really tricky one. Because what feels private to a kid and what the parent would presume, feels private to the kid. Those can be really, really far apart.

Reena Ninan
So true. What age then like when do you know, this is the age I need to start asking for permission? Because at five, it’s very different from fifteen.

Lisa Damour
It is totally different from fifteen. And in some level five year olds feel like well, of course, the whole world knows all right. Five year olds don’t typically even presume a whole lot of privacy in the world. They just don’t think about the world yet in that way. So I think you need to know your kid, you need to know what feels okay. I would say by 678, maybe saying is it okay, if I share this photo? Early? Maybe. But I think I’m not convinced you can tell from how I’m thinking this through. Yeah. I also think parents want to think about posting about their kids even young, right? Like, what does that mean to share online about your kids? Because the other thing that can happen is that the photo that none of us will give a second thought to that adorable three year old. A lot of 16 year olds be like, Oh my gosh, that is so embarrassing. Yeah, like that is so embarrassing. So there’s both the photos you’re sharing in the moment, and there’s also the photos you’ve shared historically. Okay Reena, I have an idea. I have an idea: We worry about kids sharing too much about themselves. Right, we worry about when they get access to digital media, that they start to share too much about themselves. So I actually wonder if, at the moment when kids are starting to have access to their own technology that they can use to post about themselves, that it becomes part of a broader conversation that’s being had about how much are you going to share about yourself and how much do you want me to share about you now that you are into the digital environment? What feels okay, what doesn’t feel okay? And I almost think at that moment, you could go back and be like, do you want to look at what I’ve shared about you in the past and we can start to, you know, you can delete stuff for media.

Reena Ninan
That sounds painful. That sounds too much. I don’t know, I don’t think I could go there. I don’t think I would open up that can of worms. I feel like it could be very at that sort of stage of where they might be. But But I do like what you’re saying about how they having a conversation. Okay, let’s talk about parameters, because I think you’re saying to them to look, your voice matters. And I’m not looking to offend you when I post stuff. But yeah, let’s have some ground rules on this. And it also shows that you need some rules to be reined in as well. Right on social media.

Lisa Damour
That you’re willing to kind of, you know, work together to figure out what makes sense. I think that if we go with this idea, right, that I’m having, as we talk, right, that, you know, is certainly by the advent of their own use of technology, it’s a great time to visit, you know, what are you sharing about yourself, what you feel comfortable about me sharing about you, you know, like, you could really kind of get into that. I agree with you. I think parents should take it under advisement, whether they want to pull up the archive, like, here’s everything I’ve ever shared, like, what do you think?

Reena Ninan
Well can you imagine, Lisa, what your parents would have shared if they had Instagram? Like, thank God, our parents generation did not have Instagram? Could you imagine, there would be half naked photos of me all over the internet at this point, because it was a different era, it was a different era.

Lisa Damour
And that’s what I’m thinking about more than anything else, Reena, which is we worry about how kids can feel, you know, too overexposed in the world, on digital technology to engage in the world not have enough, you know, kind of distance from the privacy from it. And then as parents, we are in a generation that suddenly we can expose our kids, for better or for worse in ways that were never available to our parents, because all they had were those like lousy little, you know, printed photos. And like your bad class pictures, remember, like your class pictures, like, those would be what we would share. And they were terrible. But everybody knew they were terrible. And they were almost humorous in that way, you know.

Reena Ninan
But you don’t find it humorous when you’re in high school. And those are floating around everywhere you Google yourself. And that’s the first image that comes up.

Lisa Damour
Right, and that’s the thing, I think that we really have to just like, hover on here for a minute, which is, what to a parent could be like, Oh, my, it’s kind of funny, or it’s kind of sweet, or it’s not that big a deal. Or like, Yeah, we all have goofy photos like that. To teenagers and tweens, right, that can be excruciating, and horrible, and like, mortifying, and the parent won’t feel it the way the kid feels. But I think we have to really take seriously that that’s the developmental moment they’re in and we need to really search our hearts for like, Is it that important to me that I put this out into the world if it’s going to make my kid this uncomfortable?

Reena Ninan
Lisa, I got to ask you like what if your kid says to you, you know what, I don’t want you to share anything about me on social media or via text? How do you approach that when there’s a full stop, do not pass go don’t share anything about my life on social media or text from your child.

Lisa Damour
It’s all embargoed. It all belongs to me. None of it is yours to share. So I think you could have a conversation, you could say, tell me more about what your worries are. You could say not even with your grandma, like your grandma, you know, loves knowing what’s going on with you. She’s like, it’s such a delight to her to track, you know, like what’s happening with you. So you could check in a little bit around those corners. But I think if the kids like it just makes me too uncomfortable. It is not yours to share. Then what we are into Reena, right and we get ourselves into these tensions is, is the upside for the parent of continuing to do it worth the downside of straining their relationship with their teenager? Right like that? That’s, that’s the question. And what I would say in those moments is look, our relationships with our teenagers are really precious, and we want to do anything we can to keep the lines of communication open. It does raise a question about whether there are other ways you could share that they would feel okay about like getting on the phone, and just being like, here’s what happened. I’m so proud. Or grandma asks, and I can answer. So you could also say, alright, I get it. You don’t want a text that lasts forever. I get it that you don’t want a photo that can float around and end up anywhere. If we’re talking you know, just what our kids are up to? Like, I’m assuming that’s okay. Like, it’s there’s no record of it, it doesn’t go anywhere. I think you could ask that. I’d like to think a kid would be like, Well, yeah, of course, like, I mean, if we’re also gonna be talking about our kids, like, you should talk about me, that’s fine. But again, like, these are such tricky things, because there’s no straight up yes or no, it’s one thing against another.

Reena Ninan
Do you think, Lisa, that there should be different standards for dealing with your child when you’re sharing personal information about them on social media versus in a family chat?

Lisa Damour
I think so. I think so I think we want to be really, really mindful of how we present our kids to the world on social media, because it is their record, right? I mean, I think that’s the thing that’s so hard to actually wrap our heads around is like, we’re creating a record that is our child’s right, that will follow them. And also, because it’s just such a broader environment, it’s such a broader environment. And I think there’s lots of ways to get it, right. You know, I can picture ways that kids feel good about the family feels good about it feels good, and, you know, an ongoing way. But I also think, if we’re going to ask kids to be circumspect, about how they present themselves on social media, reflecting with them about us making pretty constrained choices about what we’re going to share and not share about them online is a great place to sort of do the like, don’t talk about it, be about it, like, I don’t share about you online, because this is going to follow you follow you forever. And, you know, or it’s a tiny little group. But even there, you know, I’m very, very cautious about what I share. I mean, but like really unpacking that about what it means to have a digital footprint that is really quite hard to make go away.

Reena Ninan
What would your advice be to parents about sharing about your child on social media? What are the things particularly in the teenage years that you find upset kids that their parents do on social media?

Lisa Damour
I think what I would say is, I would be forthright about it. I think that’s the most important thing. I think, like teenagers, sometimes we as adults can be like, Oh, no, it’s over here. It’s private. It’s quiet, like it’ll never find out, right. So I can kind of do what I want, right? And I am sympathetic to that. I’m sure I have gone down that road. Sometimes. I think we gotta like, live by the sword die by the sword. Like, we got to say like, just like, we’re saying to our kids, like, you know, whatever you’re doing on social media, it is essentially public and permanent. Like, we need to act that way ourselves. So if you don’t, if you feel like you need to be sneaky about it, or you’re hoping your kid doesn’t find out, you posted it. I think that’s a wonderful flag of like, maybe this is not worth it. And then I think like there comes a point. And maybe it’s when your kid is on technology themselves, where you do check with kids about stuff that is going to be public public facing right into and I would say all of social media is public facing right. Even stuff that feels like it’s in a small, private, you know, you don’t have a lot of friends. It’s all there somehow, somewhere. I think we want to treat it that way. I think that you should get their permission. Now, Reena, here’s another interesting, like, just to make this more complex. In my world, kids can’t give permission for things. And what I mean is, kids can’t consent under the age of 18. To things because they’re not adults, right? So it’s also really interesting to think about a kid saying at 13 Yeah, I’m totally fine with that photo, I don’t mind. Interesting would 17 year old version of that kid still be good about what 13 year old version said was okay.

Reena Ninan
So what you’re walking me into is at 13 he might have said it’s okay. And then suddenly, they turn 17 and they realize I actually didn’t want that photo of me posted.

Lisa Damour
That doesn’t feel so great. Yeah. Okay. So I think if we bear that, I think critically important caveat in mind. If we say, you know, by the time you’re gonna post something on social media, and certainly if your kid has social media, I think it should be a conversation. I think it’s actually a really golden kind of like, you know, object lesson like I’m about to post How do you feel about this? Because kids should be doing that when they’re posting with other people in the pictures, right? Kids do sometimes jerky things or unintentionally jerky things where they put up a photo where somebody looks really bad, and the person in the photo feels ashamed or embarrassed. So it’s, I think, actually a great thing if we’re like, Okay, I’m about to put this photo up of you online. Do you feel good about it? And the 13 year old might be like, yeah, it looked fantastic. Like put it right up. And then I think you should say, if you’ve changed your mind, let me know. It will come right down.

Reena Ninan
So having that little, if you change your mind, it’ll come right down could make a difference.

Lisa Damour
I think it’s really important. Because I here’s what I love..

Reena Ninan
Don’t you think that 98% of our audience will lose all of their social media access by doing that? All of the images will be gone!

Lisa Damour
Take it all down. I do not exist in the world anymore.

Reena Ninan
Black Hole.

Lisa Damour
Isn’t that interesting? And also like, why wouldn’t we honor that is our need to just, you know, share our pride in our children so great that if a kid is asking for digital privacy, we’re going to be like, No?

Reena Ninan
You’re so right. I have never thought about it that way with parenting, and parenting and kids. Have you seen this happen before, like, go down this road?

Lisa Damour
I mean, I know, I know, kids who are like, I cannot believe you put up that first day of school picture of me, like, I look so bad. I feel really lousy. And here’s the thing, and this is why I almost am never prescriptive in my role as a psychologist: I also know families where the parent’s like, Okay, there’s a really goofy first day picture. I’m putting it up, my kid is gonna like find it both annoying and funny, right? I mean, families know, what their relationships can contain. Only individual parents and caregivers can make the assessment of like, is the upside of sharing this worth any tension that brings into our family, right? I mean, those are the calculations I just want people to be making. I have another like, escape hatch here. Because like, we are getting to a place where it feels very like, wait, I can’t share about my kid like, even to their end, right. I mean, I think it can feel very constraining, like it can feel to, like, we’re missing too much of like the delights of getting to share, you know, how much we like our kids and how fun we think they are. So sometimes, when I have had something where I was really, really proud of my kid, and I wanted to share it, but it felt weird to like call a family member and partly me because I didn’t want the family members sort of spontaneously bringing it up at a holiday dinner and having my kid be like, Whoa, like, how do you even know about that. So I have a dear friend, who lives in another state, who doesn’t interact with my kids, but who has known my kids all their life. And I can call her and be like, I just have to tell you this really cool thing that happened. And she can satisfy my need for pleasure and delight in my kid in a way that I don’t feel like I’m flexing, it’s not happening in public, I don’t have to worry about a, you know, strange Thanksgiving conversation suddenly popping up, because we don’t run into this friend that much. And so my wish to just Hello, about my kid or kids get satisfied. And on that one, my kid doesn’t know. I don’t think would care. It doesn’t exist anywhere in the world. It’s not a lasting record. And so that’s a that’s a little portal I have found when I’m trying to navigate this tricky thing.

Reena Ninan
Yeah. No, that makes sense. Going back to this letter, Lisa, you know, when she’s this, this parent is talking about, you know, reconciling the need to share with just family members, not even social media, as you pointed out. What would your advice be to this mom and creating those parameters? What really matters in this moment?

Lisa Damour
I think talking to your kid, right? Your relationship with your kid, especially if she has kids who are moving into our our teenagers. Right. And I love that actually, she never mentioned the ages, right? I mean, I think it’s like one of those things where we can just think about this across all ages. I think that it is essential that we take very, very seriously protecting that relationship. And I’ll tell you why. One because it’s pleasurable, right, like, it’s fun to get along with your teenager, like teenagers are a blast, especially when they’re, you know, in a good mood with you, right? The other is, their safety hinges on it. In order for teenagers to be safe, they have to trust us, and have a close enough working relationship with us that they’re gonna call us if they need help. And so these things that we do over here, like, you know, rubbing them the wrong way about photos, or you know, antagonizing them in ways that are unnecessary. They’re both costly to the relationship with her. Also, for me, I’m like, whoa, whoa, whoa, I then worry that if that kid had a need, or if something were really wrong, or if there was something deeply private, that they needed help with, right, because sometimes the things that go wrong are like superduper, private. I would never want that kid to think I can’t go to my parent because they are basically a billboard. Right? So when that when doing the calculus, especially as kids get older, you want to be trustworthy. You want your kids to feel like they can tell you stuff and it will go nowhere. If they say please don’t share this.

Reena Ninan
So having that confidence in you, your child having that confidence to you as a parent, that you’re not going to go blab or this or or posted all over the town hall here, you know that this is something that is safe, and they feel comfortable bringing it to you.

Lisa Damour
Yeah. And so as we’re talking this through, what becomes clear to me is that what’s getting shared with the relatives or even what’s getting posted online, those are the small stakes. But how we, as parents interact with kids around our trustworthiness and our honoring that there are things of theirs that may not be ours to share on the small stakes may really come into play around big stakes stuff, where we want our kids to feel that they can come to us, and we want them to believe that we take seriously that not everything is ours to share.

Reena Ninan
Building trust, man, you have really gotten that through as to why that is so important in development and dealing with your kids. You know, I gotta say, I’ve never thought about that question you pose at the beginning. Why are you sharing this? What does it mean for your kid? Two questions. I’ve never asked myself when I posted something on social media.

Lisa Damour
Yeah, we don’t do we? I mean, I don’t know that I’d asked before really, you know, reflecting on this letter.

Reena Ninan
So what do you have for us, Lisa, for Parenting to Go?

Lisa Damour
So there’s one other element of this letter that I just want to circle back on where she says, I don’t want my kids to think I’m not proud of them if I don’t share. And that one actually has a simple solution, which is you just like, you play your cards face up. If you find yourself in a situation like that with a kid, you want to say something like, you know, I’m slowing down on sharing, because I’ve decided that you get to decide what’s out there about you in the world, especially as you age. So if someone shares about their kid, and I’m not sharing about you, it’s not that I’m not proud of you. And I want you to know that. Oh, my gosh, I burst with pride about you. It’s just that I’m putting privacy ahead of pride here. And I just wanted you to know that.

Reena Ninan
That’s great. That’s really great advice, a lot to think about and the forever struggle and dilemma with parents and sharing. This is a great episode and questions that I hadn’t thought about before.

Lisa Damour
Thank you. Me neither, me neither.

Reena Ninan
I love it that you’re working through it just as much as we are in this episode. And we hope all of you have a wonderful Thanksgiving next weekend. And we’re gonna have an encore episode: My kids lose it when they make sports mistakes. How can I help? I’ll see you next week.

Lisa Damour
I’ll see you next week.

The advice provided by Dr. Damour here will not and does not constitute - or serve as a substitute for - professional psychological treatment, therapy, or other types of professional advice or intervention. If you have concerns about your child’s well-being, consult a physician or mental health professional.

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