How Social Media Has Changed the Way We Parent

A picture of a mother kissing her baby and uploading something on social media
Is social media affecting the way you parent?. Photo © Tom Merton / Getty Images

Social media has changed how we communicate, get the news and share content 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.

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, we now absentmindedly take a moment of pause to decide if this is a Facebook-worthy moment. We 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-her dive into the clothes hamper.

In that brief moment of pause, we're losing out on something special. We miss that natural parent and child interaction where it's just the two of you, no sharing or likes by anyone on the outside.

We Compare

As a parent, you can pretty much count on running into that mom who is always bragging about her child and all of his wonderful accomplishments. He's hit his milestones early, been accepted into the best school in town and can say the alphabet forward, backward and in two languages by the time he's three.

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 brews from within.

Many parents report that they actually compare their own parenting success and what feels like failures based on what they're reading on social media. That even extends to our home life as we compare the most awesome husband ever because he 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.

That "everyone else is doing better than I am" mentality creates unnecessary stress in your life. A recent study showed quitting Facebook made people feel happier.

Even Pinterest is not immune. A new study found Pinterest is also a source of stress. Feeling like you just can't live up to that mom who posted 1,000 pins of preschooler crafts takes a toll on you when 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 will change to a resounding, "Yes."

Social media has turned parents into oversharers. 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.

That's what research backed up too. 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 will drain you of more time than you thought possible. Just ask your kids if they think you're a distracted parent. That's time you could have spent with your family or taken in an alone-time indulgence to recharge.

That doesn't mean you have to give up social media 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? Does he want to know how many likes he got for that pic you posted yesterday? If so, he wouldn't be the first.

Research shows that, as parents, when we post our children's pictures on social media, we're also creating fame-hungry kids. They gauge their own popularity on how many of our Facebook friends, many people our children don't even know, 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 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 A's 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. She would look cuter if her hand was on her 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. Okay, just stand there a minute. I've got to post this on my Facebook page.

Sound like a conversation you've had? Social media is full of those picture-perfect moments, except 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. If you still decide you want to share your photos, snap those shots and have fun with your kids. Just take the picture as if you were the only one going to see it, not the world. You'll have more fun and taking pictures will be easier on both of you.

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 Facebook didn't exist.

Today, we're creating a digital footprint the first time we upload a picture of our kids on the Internet and every post after that strips away your family's privacy. 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 him when he's 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 you want off of social media, 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 Gauge Our Parenting Success in Likes, Loves, Favorites and Re-Tweets

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 she would never let her 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 turns us into moms and dads who gauge our parenting success based on other people's likes, loves, favorites and re-tweets of our content.

If you deleted all of your accounts and disappeared from social media tomorrow, would that make you any less successful at parenting? You don't have to go to that extreme if you don't want to but how social media is affecting us parents should also make us take a closer look at how we view its significance in our lives.