The effect of social media on parenting
Sharing photos of our little ones on social media may seem harmless. However, there are a few potential dangers to look out for before clicking ‘Post’.
Social media dominates the world that we live in. It has changed how we interact with each other, how we work and even how we raise our kids. Nearly everything that happens in our lives gets considered in a social media context. Thoughts like ‘If I take a photo of this, will my Instagram followers like it?’ bubble up before first thinking whether or not we want the photo for ourselves.
We have been conditioned to prioritise sharing moments over enjoying them. And it’s totally understandable, it’s not your fault. Becoming aware of it is half the battle. With this awareness, we can take a second to double-check if we’re doing something for ourselves, or for online admiration.
It goes without saying that this has an impact on our parenting. Are we focusing too much on the perfect photo, perhaps tainting the organic nature of the present moment? Let’s take a closer look at how social media affects our relationships with our children so we can be sure to re-centre our attention and give our kids what they really need.
COMPARISON IS THE THIEF OF JOY
Possibly the most dangerous effect of social media is the way that it makes us compare our lives to the lives of others. If you were to post a photo of your little one and it receives less likes than a photo your friend posted of their child, how would you feel about that? Would you feel that the photo was bad or even that people prefer the other child?
Perhaps someone you follow online is always taking their family on exciting trips and showing their children different parts of the world. Or a mum you know just got a promotion in work and somehow is being the perfect mother while excelling in their career. It’s crucial to remember that what we see online is only a pinhole view of that person’s life. It’s curated by them to highlight the good bits and hide the bad. Everyone naturally wants to appear to be succeeding, hence the lack of more ‘honest’ posts about failing at something or even just making a mistake. People’s lives look so perfect online but that couldn’t be further from the truth.
We need to understand that social media can make us think in comparative, negative and irrational ways. Many studies have shown that unplugging from social media tends to make people happier. A great place to start is by seeing your own family, beautifully unique as it is, and recognising that it’s your life, you’re doing your best and that’s all that really matters!
DON’T MISS THE MOMENT BY TRYING TO CAPTURE IT
It’s far more common than not for parents to overshare about their children on social media. Every time we see our kids do something adorable, impressive or generally interesting, we instinctively pull out our phones to capture it. And we tend to go a step further and post this photo or video online. This is totally fine every so often but if you catch yourself doing it multiple times per day, it’s possible that you could be oversharing.
One of the main issues with this is that our first thought is not to intentionally enjoy the moment with our child, but to share it with others. How many milestones in your little one’s life have you seen through your phone’s camera as you record it, instead of purely just watching it unfold? Don’t beat yourself up over it, we all do it! But trying to pull back a little and put the phone back in your pocket goes a long way.
HOW DO OUR CHILDREN FEEL ABOUT IT?
As cute as we think it is, it’s possible that our children don’t enjoy being put on social media. While we may think it’s harmless, it’s definitely worth chatting to them about it, to find out how they feel. Lots might be totally fine with it, others might prefer it to happen a little less often, and some may not like it at all. What if your little one found out that a photo of them didn’t get as many likes as a photo of their friend from school? They’re probably not going to feel good about that. This can affect a child’s self-esteem from a very young age, at a time when they should just be having fun and not really caring about how they’re perceived.
We have all had embarrassing photos taken of us that we wish never existed. Luckily, these were often actual photos as opposed to digital ones. The evidence was there but not available for the whole world to see! These days, once you put a photo on the internet, it’s there forever. You have no control over who shares that image or where it ends up.
Even if you delete it from your social media, it’s almost certainly still somewhere on the internet. A photo of your little one covered in spaghetti may be hilarious but they might not appreciate it resurfacing 20 years later when they’re applying for a job and trying to come across as serious and accomplished!
It can be so nice to put photos of our children on social media so that our friends and family can stay up to date. But there are lots of drawbacks and pitfalls to be aware of. With this knowledge we can be more balanced in our approach and keep our child’s best interests as the priority.