Social Media: Parenting Friend Or Foe?

Social Media: Parenting Friend Or Foe?

Parenting is very different today than it was 20 years ago.

For one thing, there are about a bazillion more products available to help you raise your kids.

From bath seats to battery powered bouncers, a lot of these new fangled baby products simply didn’t exist when we were young.

Technology has arguably made parenting a lot easier than it once was.

Technological and scientific advancements mean that car seats are now safer than ever.

Smartphones mean you can quickly photograph and video your baby, and share those memories with your friends and family in a matter of seconds.

The rise of social media means it’s now easier to stay connected to friends on the other side of the world.

It means you can share information at the top of a button, and saves you a small fortune on stamps when it’s time to announce a birth.

But is there a downside to social media, or is it parenting gold?

How Social Media Improves The Lives Of Parents

There are plenty of benefits to social media, if there weren’t, it probably wouldn’t be such a major part of our daily lives. Most modern parents have profiles on at least a couple of social media sites, with Facebook being arguably the most popular. Here are some of the pros of social media:

#1: Connecting With Friends and Family

Social media, quite simply, allows you to stay connected. When you’re stuck in a world of dirty nappies, you can still find out what your friends are up to. You can let them know about your day (more poo on the floor) and hear all about their day (some kind of work related drama). You can be stuck inside for a week looking after your chicken pox infested toddler, and not miss out on the latest gossip.

Put simply, social media reduces isolation. Without leaving your bed, you can connect with the people you hold dearest in the world.

#2: Seeking Advice

Social media is a great place to go for parenting advice. If you’re worried about how to soothe your baby’s teething pains, struggling with a threenager or just looking for local family activities, you can ask on social media. You’ll receive a barrage of advice within minutes. The only downside is that you’ll have to discount all of the bad advice, of which there will be lots. Hopefully though, there will be a few good gems in there too.

#3: Find Like Minded Mamas

Thanks to Facebook groups, you can connect with like minded mamas across the world. It’s not always easy to find the mamas just like you in your local area, but joining a local parenting group could allow you to do that. There are hundreds of parenting groups on Facebook, from local sling libraries to online breastfeeding support, and you can connect with other mamas there.

#4: It Makes Friendships Easier

Thanks to social media, you don’t need to wait until you bump into that mama from baby group. Instead, you can connect on social media and get to know her better online. Social media allows you to accelerate friendships faster, and that can only be a good thing in a world where community is weaker than ever before. There might not be daily baby groups in your local area, and without social media it could take longer to get to know the mamas who live near you.

#5: Second Hand Shopping

There are plenty of local selling groups on social media that allow you to buy and sell baby clothes and products. You don’t need to trawl the noticeboard at your corner shop, or hope that you happen to bump into someone selling what you need, these days you can track things down online. It also means you can sell your unwanted baby items easily too.

#6: Finding Inspiration

If you’re having one of those days where you’re struggling for energy and inspiration, a quick glance at social media can be all you need to turn it around. Seeing photographs of friends at the park or feeding ducks on the canal can motivate you into doing the same. There’s no shortage of inspiration for activities on social media, and that can be a great thing when you’re just too tired to get your brain in gear.

The Downside Of Social Media

It’s not all good though, social media does have its limitations when it comes to making parenting easier, more enjoyable and more fulfilling. Here are just a few ways social media can be a bad thing:

#1: Comparing Yourself To Others

It’s pretty much impossible not to compare yourself to others, and that’s especially true when it comes to parenting. Social media means these comparisons can continue long into the night. Your friends might do better craft activities with their kids, be better at getting out and about or just seem to have tantrum-free toddlers, and it’s hard not to feel crap about yourself when faced with that.

Remember though, people only share what they want to on social media. Just because a mama shares hilarious and uplifting tales of her family on Facebook, doesn’t mean they don’t have tantrums, disagreements and bad days just like everybody else. Just because you see a smiling, happy photograph of them at the park, doesn’t mean they didn’t spend the rest of the day in pyjamas on the sofa. Everyone is human, even the seemingly perfect mamas on your Facebook news feed.

#2: Making A Bad Day Worse

When you’re having a bad day, there’s nothing quite like being reminded of how happy everyone else is to make you feel worse. If you’re hiding in the toilet binge-eating biscuits in an attempt to make yourself feel better, you really don’t need to know that another mama is ‘having the best day ever’. On days like that, it might be better to stay away from social media altogether.

#3: Taking Up Time

The days are long but the years are short. That saying rings oh so true, do you really want to spend those years staring at your smartphone? Checking social media has become second nature to many of us, and it’s something that happens on autopilot. You may not even realise quite how often you do it. But your kids do. They notice when you’re looking at your phone while they talk to you. They notice when you’re too busy on your phone to play with them. Presence is a dying art these days, yet it’s what people crave the most from others.

That’s not to say you have to throw your phone in a lake, but it does mean you should consider paying attention to how much you use it. Limiting your smartphone time each day, or leaving your phone in another room so you can give your child your full attention could help here.

#4: Sharing Too Much Information

Has the rise in social media left many of us over sharing about our kids? Are we impacting on their right to privacy by sharing their private lives on social media? This is a difficult one, and it’s really something only you can decide. Will your child grow up resenting the amount of information out there in the public domain? Or is this simply a byproduct of living in the information age?

Friend Or Foe?

Like anything else, social media has its good points and its bad points. It could be argued that the positives far outweigh the negatives. As long as you are careful and considerate in your use of social media, then the negatives can all be overcome.

Social media is popular because it is personal. You choose who you interact with and how, and your social media usage is probably unique to you. For that reason, how you feel about social media will depend greatly on how you use it.

For me, social media is a friend. A best friend. It keeps me connected to my friends and family, from those living two streets away to those traveling the world. It stores my memories for me, everything from my daughter’s first step to the funny thing she said last week. It has helped me connect with amazing like minded women from all over the world. It has been a safe place I can turn to for parenting advice. It has allowed me to develop friendships, kept me entertained and allowed me to celebrate my daughter. And I can’t imagine my life without it. That said, I am probably (definitely) guilty of spending too much time on my phone.

Recommended Reading

If you love social media, take a look at the article 13 Types Of Mothers You’ll Find On Social Media. Which one are you?

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Fiona Peacock is a writer, researcher and lover of all things to do with pregnancy, birth and motherhood (apart from the lack of sleep). She is a home birth advocate, passionate about gentle parenting and is also really tired.

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