How Social Media Has Changed the Way We Parent

Social media has changed how we communicate, get the news, and share our lives with others. In this new world where social media gives us our own soapbox with no boundaries, it's also affected our parenting.

Before you upload that next adorable pic of your child and wait for the likes to come in, take a look at how social media has changed the way we parent—and what you can do to make social media a more positive experience for you and your family.

We Pause

"Joshie ate broccoli for the first time!" "Morgan fell into the clothes hamper head first."

Social media has created a pause in our brains. In those parenting moments when we would celebrate with Joshie or run to Morgan's rescue, many of us now absentmindedly take a moment of pause to decide if this is a Facebook-worthy moment.

We may grab those smartphones and snap away instead of handing out instant high fives for trying that new food or kisses for that cute-to-us but scary-for-them dive into the clothes hamper.

In the brief moment of pause when parents reach for their phones to post on social media, they miss a natural and important moment of parent-child interaction.

We Compare

When you have children, you can pretty much count on running into that parent who is always bragging about their child and all of their wonderful accomplishments: They've hit their milestones early, been accepted into the best school in town, and can say the alphabet forward, backward, and in two languages by the time they're 3 years old.

Thanks to social media, you don't have to go to the playground to be bombarded with this information. The best of the best about everyone's children is now presented to you in a beautiful timeline, complete with pictures, right in your very own home. Parents react with likes and comments but a secret battle may brew from within.

Many parents report that they compare their own parenting success to others on social media. They may experience a feeling of failure based on what they see online, and that "everyone else is doing better than I am" mentality creates unnecessary stress.

The comparisons even extend to the rest of our home life as we compare our friend's spouse who came home early from work to cook the family a healthy meal to our own lives on the night we stopped by a fast-food restaurant and ate dinner in the car.

When you look at social media, a vast majority of parents aren't sharing the good, the bad, and the ugly. Social media is like a real-time scrapbook where you're making the conscious decision to not share your struggles or bad days. We share the glossier side of life…and so does everyone else.

It may not come as a surprise that a 2016 study showed that quitting Facebook made people feel happier.

Even Pinterest is not immune. A TODAY Moms survey found Pinterest may also be a source of stress. Feeling like you just can't live up to that parent who posted 1,000 pins of preschooler crafts takes a toll on you when you feel as though you're doing well if you get to take a shower every day.

We Overshare

Ask yourself if you're oversharing on social media and you'll probably say, "No." Now ask yourself if you think your friends overshare and the answer may change to a resounding, "Yes."

Social media has turned many parents into over-sharers. We pepper our timelines with photos and updates, sometimes multiple times a day. And no topic seems to be off-limits, from potty training accidents to vomit shots.

The University of Michigan C.S. Mott Children's Hospital National Poll on Children's Health found that 75% of parents think other parents overshare. They say "sharenting" ranged from inappropriate photos to too many details that could give away a child's location.

We Commit Our Time

Try this experiment. No cheating. Log every minute you pick up your phone or sit at the computer to use social media. Once you add up all of your minutes for the week, you'll probably be shocked at how you managed your time.

Social media can drain you of more time than you thought possible, and that is time you could have spent with your family or taken in an alone-time indulgence to recharge. Consider asking your kids if they think you're a distracted parent.

The realization that you're spending too much time on social media doesn't mean you have to give it up completely. Just make sure you set limits so that everyone has times when they're unplugged and simply enjoying each other's company.

We Create Fame-Hungry Kids

Has your child ever asked if you're going to post that pic on Facebook? Do they want to know how many likes they got for that post you made yesterday? If so, they wouldn't be the first.

As parents, when we post our children's pictures on social media and actively track the posts' popularity, we risk creating fame-hungry kids. As they watch our behavior, kids may learn to gauge their own popularity on how many people are clicking that "like" button.

We Brag (Too Much)

We all brag on social media because our kids are awesome. Of course, you're proud of your kids and you want people to know it.

Other parents may start to roll their eyes when the updates become excessive, such as posting multiple updates a day. And worse is when parents start to gush with updates that are veiled as self-deprecating ("Eliza did not get her academic excellence from me. Straight As this report card!") or the bragging that knocks others down ("Caleb made first string on the football team. No bench-warming for him!").

We Force a Picture-Perfect Moment

Your child looks so cute in that oversized hat. Grab the smartphone.

Now hang on. They would look cuter if their hand was on their hip. No, the hand is too high. Lower. Oh, wait. What about that fuzzy pink boa? That would look hilarious with this hat. Now hold still. OK, just stand there a minute. I've got to post this on my Instagram.

Sound like a conversation you've had? Social media is full of those picture-perfect moments, except many of those picture-perfect moments took 15 shots of the same pose and as much direction from you as a photographer at a supermodel photo shoot.

Before you post any pictures of your child online, you should weigh the pros and cons. Remember that you can take a picture and simply enjoy the moment without sharing it on social media.

If you still decide you want to share your photos, snap those shots, and have fun with your kids. Just take the picture to capture the moment for yourself (rather than an audience) and as if you were the only one going to see it. You and your kids will have a lot more fun.

We Create a Digital Footprint

Remember when your mom posted that embarrassing picture of you when you were little? That's right. All of those pictures were limited to photo albums shared among family members because social media didn't exist.

Today, we're creating a digital footprint the first time we upload a picture of our kids on the Internet.

Colleges and employers are increasingly looking up prospects on the Internet to look at photos, comments, and posts. What will your child's digital footprint say about them when they're an adult?

Social media is just one of the many ways we can, intentionally or not, violate our children's privacy. Even if you think you're safe because you have privacy settings on your account and can delete your pictures any time, it doesn't necessarily mean you're erasing that digital footprint.

Facebook's site says not everything is deleted unless you permanently delete your account. Twitter removes content 30 days after deactivation. But even so, we all know once a photo is uploaded, it's out there even if you want to take it back.

Photos can be saved, shared, and distributed even if you don't want them to be and without your knowledge.​

We Focus on Likes

You post a picture of your child and it gets 33 likes. Then you post a picture of your dog and it gets 67 likes. Do people think your dog is cuter than your kid?

We upload a picture of our child raiding the pantry for a chocolate bar for breakfast. We get 50+ likes. Hooray for us, right? Then you get one comment from this other parent who says they would never let their child eat chocolate for breakfast. And your feelings get hurt. It doesn't stop.

There seems to be an unofficial competition on social media to be the funniest, wittiest, most-amazing parent, and it can cause moms and dads to gauge their parenting success based on other people's likes, loves, favorites, and re-tweets of their content.

The Upside of Social Media

While there's no denying that social media can have negative effects on parenting, there are many advantages to these platforms if used mindfully. Here are a few to consider:

  • You can keep far-away loved ones in the loop. Social media was originally designed to connect people and enable us to share achievement, milestones, and cute moments with friends and relatives who you might not see or talk with often.
  • You can learn from other parents. Instead of using social media to boast about your child’s achievements, you can use it as a valuable resource for tips and tricks from other parents. Does anyone have any tips for potty-training? What’s your go-to recipe for a picky eater? Any ideas for a fun and easy craft to do with a 3-year-old?
  • You can commiserate and laugh. If you follow parents who are honest about their own experiences, you’ll likely feel better about your own parenting frustrations and mishaps. Search for parenthood-related conversations that are grouped by location, age, or interests.
  • You can connect with others. While social media can’t replace face-to-face interactions, it can help provide social support during those times when you need to connect with friends but don’t have time to meet up IRL (in real life).
  • You can find valuable resources. Many parenting, child, and health experts have a social media presence, and if you follow these trusted sources, you can find valuable information to help ease the stress of parenting.

Tips for Using Social Media

Here are some suggestions to curb the negative impacts of social media and ensure that you are setting a good example for your child.

  • Be choosy about who you friend and follow, and hide or unfollow those who make you feel guilty or bad about your parenting decisions.
  • Consider the long-term impact of your pictures and comments regarding your children. Ask your children permission prior to posting about them on social media, so they have a say in their digital footprint.
  • Be honest about your posts and your intentions. Before you create a post on social media related to your child, ask yourself: Why am I posting? Are you genuinely proud and want to share it with friends and loved ones? Are you competing with other parents for likes and shares? Are you fishing for compliments for yourself?
  • Don’t compete or compare. It may be easier said than done, but try your best not to put pressure on yourself (or your children) to live up to the seemingly picture-perfect lives portrayed by others on social media. Remind yourself that many people only share the good and that everyone’s child progresses at their own rate.
  • Set limits for yourself. By turning off your device at the dinner table and/or a couple of hours before bed, you can set a good example for your kids and gain back quality time to connect with your family without the screens.
  • Evaluate your own use. If you deleted all of your accounts and disappeared from social media tomorrow, would that make you any less successful at parenting? While you don't have to go to that extreme, it is helpful to take a closer look at your relationship with social media and how it may be impacting your parenting.
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Article Sources
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