A few months ago, Worthington mom AnnMarie McCallister was having a particularly horrid morning before her kids went off to school.

A few months ago, Worthington mom AnnMarie McCallister was having a particularly horrid morning before her kids went off to school.

"It had just not been pretty here," she said. The icky feeling of that morning stuck with her while at work. She was upset, so she went to Facebook and posted a plea to some other Worthington moms in a private group.

"I know some of you guys will see my kids today," she wrote. "If you could just be extra gentle with them, they have a crazy person for a mother."

"Within minutes, I not only had words of encouragement I needed to hear," McCallister said, "I had a message from someone who had seen my son that day, and he was fine. It helped me get through a difficult day."

McCallister is not alone in feeling less alone on Facebook. In a national poll conducted earlier this year by the C.S. Mott Children's Hospital at the University of Michigan, more than half of mothers and about one-third of fathers said they discuss parenting on social media. And nearly 75 percent of these parents - or "sharents," as they're sometimes called - say they use social media because it makes them feel less alone.

"You feel like, well, I'm not the only one. My kid won't be the only one in therapy," McCallister said, laughing.

Why We Share

"Not everyone lives in close geographic proximity to family members, good friends and others with kids the same age who share their parenting style," said Sarah Clark, a research scientist at the University of Michigan's Department of Pediatrics. "The benefit of this ability to connect 24 hours a day with other people is filling in the gaps on those times when you don't have someone physically present who you can share with. Facebook is always on."

"It's sort of the same thing you do with support groups," said Carl Grody of Grody Family Counseling in Worthington and Columbus Parent's Family Therapy columnist. "As clinicians and therapists, we like to think we have magic wands. But the reality is that, if you have a support group of people going through the same thing, they're going to trade the best ideas with each other because they're in the trenches."

In the poll, parents reported they were most likely to share about sleeping issues, nutrition, discipline, daycare/preschool and behavior problems.

"It's not a substitute for talking with a doctor about a health issue," Clark said, "but for something like soothing a crying baby in the middle of the night, people have all sorts of tips that have worked for them."

What to Share

But there are pitfalls to sharenting, especially when parents post impulsively before considering issues of privacy and confidentiality. Clark and Grody recommended parents take a careful look at the privacy settings of the social-media websites and apps they use. Can anyone see your Facebook timeline? Are location data embedded into your Instagram photos?

There's a danger, too, in creating a social identity for a child before the kid has a chance to create one for himself, which he's nearly guaranteed to do someday. Whether it's purposeful or not, parents sometimes put labels on their kids, Clark said, such as, "Suzie is the smart one."

"That boxes Suzie into a particular place where now she is required to be that persona. With that kind of pressure, there can be some downsides," Clark said. "Also, what does it say about Johnny? 'Suzie is the smart one, Johnny is our lunkheaded one.' It pigeonholes kids into a particular persona and doesn't give them the space to figure out who they want to be."

Posting about behavioral problems can be similarly problematic.

"If the story of your life is, 'Mom and Dad think I have a behavioral problem, therefore I must be a bad kid' - if you put that out on social media, other people start to assume that," Grody said. "Then they go, 'Oh, there's the kid who broke the lamp or pushed his sister,' instead of giving the kid credit for the things he does well."

McCallister said she follows a few self-imposed rules to prevent over-sharenting. She confines certain Facebook posts to a private group of moms. She also doesn't use her kids' names when posting, and as her kids enter the elementary and pre-teen stages, she doesn't post anything about them without their permission.

"I try to be as respectful of my kids as possible," she said. "I'm not going to put something up just because I think it's hilarious if I think it would embarrass them."

Even when her kids approve a post, she said their reactions can be disconcerting. If she posts a picture, her daughter will check in to see how many "Likes" it has.

"She's already craving this external validation of how many people liked it," McCallister said.

Despite the potential pitfalls of sharenting, parents shouldn't be so overcome with fear or privacy paranoia that they forget the positive aspects. "Don't be so afraid that you isolate yourself and miss out on the good things," Clark said.