Social Media and Children: Where is the line?
As we await the pending birth of our first child, my husband and I have started the discussion about the somewhat controversial topic of children and their place on social media. A topic which is all too familiar not just for parents; it seems many of us have passionate views about this.
I am a frequent user of social media and I’m also aware that many do not get caught up in it. There was a two year period where I deactivated my Facebook account and I’ve never felt more free! But, eventually I found myself back on ‘the book’ and I honestly enjoy a lot of the positives social media has to offer; keeping in touch with friends/family who aren’t always nearby and also giving thumbs up to many of the daily successes of my friends. I’ve always felt it was important to have appropriate privacy settings and I regularly ‘cull’ Facebook friends to keep the friends list as short as possible for these particular reasons:
- I am conscious of the fact that my life isn’t of interest to everyone and when I post things, I always think ‘so many people won’t care about this, but I know my closest friends/family will’ and so I hit ‘post’.
- I get in moods where I feel like I don’t want acquaintances to know what’s happening in my life. I ask myself if I wouldn’t sit down with them for a coffee or send a Christmas card, should we be connected on social media?
Now that we have a baby to consider, these questions have never been more relevant. My husband and I really need to decide how we are going to handle this in a way that protects our bundle, but also allows us to share our joy with loved ones, without annoying people. I couldn’t handle being one of those parents who just don’t get that not everyone wants five updates a day of their child’s latest meal, outfit, adventure or nappy explosion.
Balance is what we’re looking to achieve, right?
The pros of social media are obvious, but I thought I’d share my concerns and I’m hoping the conversation will continue and you’ll all tell me what you think:
- Who’s profile is this? Am I creating an online identity for my child when really, it should be a choice he/she makes when the time is more appropriate?
- Judgment. No matter what we post, there will always be judgment. It isn’t always public, these people don’t comment usually, but the judgment is there regardless. Is this important to me? Do I wish to avoid it?
- Am I ‘that’ parent? Have I lost sight of the fact that no one else loves our baby as much as we do? Am I posting too much? I do NOT want to be that annoying parent. Where is the line? Have I crossed it?
- Am I in control? Google owns everything it seems. Even if you delete photos down the track, they are never truly gone. Am I ok with this?
AND what about friends who harmlessly post photos of your children and tag you (another grey area!)
- Am I living in the moment? Does EVERYTHING need to be caught on camera? Am I parenting through my phone instead of living in the moment and enjoying my child? What impact is my phone use having on my child? This is an important one for me.
- Do I want everyone knowing my child? The reality is, there are too many people who can view our profiles. There are plenty of people who think they know you because they follow what you’re up to on social media. Do I want acquaintances to see my baby grow up? I like seeing other people’s babies grow up even though I very rarely/never see them in person. Is this ok?
- Am I a fraud? If I post a super cute photo/video of my perfect child being the model baby and rocking the cutest outfit ever, does that mean I also need to post an update of my baby screaming, covered in filth, not being cooperative?
- What am I trying to achieve? This one isn’t specific to parenting but more so raises the question of the purpose of social media. Many have heard of the term ‘brag book’ and let’s be honest, not many of us share negative thoughts/experiences online. And if we do, people cringe or panic. The general rule seems to be ‘Keep it clean and upbeat, don’t be a Debbie Downer, but don’t brag about your life, that makes you an asshole…’ we can’t win!
So, as I continue my search for clarity around these questions, here are a couple of strategies that I’ve heard about or am thinking of trying:
- Start the conversation– we have been chatting with our inner circles about this. And most of our closest friends/family know where we stand on this topic.
- Decide on an appropriate frequency– multiple daily updates are just not necessary. Online friends will not be as excited. The appropriate frequency needs to suit you and your family. We haven’t decided yet. Once every couple of weeks maybe? We’re not for a full social media block out; however, we hope to keep things limited.
- Use an App! When radio host Michael Wipfli had his baby ‘Super Ted’ he was posting about a great app called ‘Tiny Beans’ which I know many families are using. It allows you to create an account and post photos/videos as regularly as you like and it’s privacy is secure. It takes a bit to set up but I know many of us enjoy seeing updates of our nieces/nephews etc… and there is far less exposure. Other Apps which some families use include Viber, Whatsapp and Facebook Messenger.
- Tighten your security settings. This could mean you have a separate album which only has specific people you have chosen who are able to view it. Acquaintances cannot see your photos in this album. Also, change your ‘tagging’ settings to ensure you have to approve the tag first- this can help with friends who want to post about your child. You can intercept them or can ask them to ensure their privacy settings are appropriate also.
- Cut down on social media connections. While ‘deleting’ Facebook friends might seem harsh, the reality is, we don’t need 1000+ people seeing the ins and outs of our lives and it’s about boundaries. Most people can appreciate this.
- Put down the phone! This is particularly important to me and I am challenged by it in a big way. It’s important that we learn to disconnect from our devices and simply enjoy our lives. Parenting or otherwise. Not all of our moments need to be captured on camera. We live in the digital age where if it wasn’t on social media, it didn’t happen. But it did! Tell your story over a coffee sometimes rather than using social media, all the time. Keep some mystery in your relationships with others. They can call or visit to hear your successes and struggles.
There are far too many babies/toddlers/children who are reaching for phones, unlocking iPads, scrolling through Apps on electronic devices etc and this is having a detrimental impact on development. We are the biggest influence on our children’s lives. If they see us constantly on our phones, they too want the same. Additionally, how does this impact our interactions with our children?
It’s a complex issue but we want to know what your thoughts are! Any concerns or other tips to managing this complex issue are welcome! Join the conversation!