What Is Oversharing?

Oversharing is willingly, but naively, posting information on the Internet that puts you or your family at risk. This is mostly done through social networking. Most social networks allow you to relay messages between different sites, and it's easy to lose track of how much information you might be giving away and how many people have free access to what you've shared. Oversharing has become a problem, especially among kids and teens. In fact, oversharing was Webster's New World Dictionary's word of the year for 2008. 1

People might be over-sharing without knowing it. For example, you might relay your Foursquare location to your public Twitter account —and by doing this, expose the message to the whole world.

A couple notable examples of how oversharing can be exploited:

A website called Please Rob Me was created to demonstrate the dangers of over-sharing through Twitter. Though now disabled, the website automatically searched Twitter for tweets that revealed that the user would be away from home or on vacation; these Tweets, which compromised home security by letting others know that a person's house would be empty, were updated by the minute and publicly displayed.

Since Twitter also allows one to tag a tweet with a GPS location of the computer or mobile phone used to make the tweet, the security of your physical location is easily lost.

A recently-removed app from the App Store called Girls Near Me would display the location (and Facebook profile picture) of girls on a map centered on the user's smart phone. The locations were collected from the girls' public Foursquare check-ins. Clicking on a picture would take you to her Facebook profile, many of which have public information such as phone numbers, e-mail addresses, pictures and more. After the ensuing media firestorm, Foursquare shut off access to check-in data, rendering the app useless.

Concerns for Parents

  • Giving away too much information can put you at risk for identity theft.
  • Letting other Web users know that you'll be away from home puts you at risk for having your house broken into (see our article on Please Rob Me for more details).
  • Children and teens who over-share may attract the attention of online predators.
  • Potential employers often look at a person's social networking accounts, blogs, and so forth as they make hiring decisions. Posting inappropriate material online could hurt your professional reputation.

How Can I Keep My Child Safe?

  • Edit the settings of your child's social networking accounts to make updates viewable only to friends and family.
  • Talk to your kids about what information should never be shared online. Things you and your kids shouldn't make public include full names, addresses, phone numbers, age, and financial information.
  • Practice what you preach: consider carefully what you choose to make public on your own social networking accounts. Adults over-share too, especially on blogs. If you do blog about your friends or family, make your blog private so that you can post pictures and include the names of your loved ones without worrying about privacy issues. Good blogging services like Blogger and WordPress allow you to make your blog visible only to specific friends and family members that you invite, and we encourage you to take advantage of this smart feature.

Where Can I Learn More?

Read this 234TIME235 article about Please Rob Me and the general dangers of oversharing.