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Parenting in the social media age

by | Jun 6, 2020

Parenting has changed thanks to the always-on, instant gratification lifestyle we lead in an age of tech and social media, write educator Kerry McArthur.

The world that we are parenting in is very different to when we grew up. Our parents had to take photos and wait to print them, they needed to write journals and complete baby books. In today’s parenting world, everything is instant but has a global effect.

What we put out there cannot be taken down, parents are influenced by trends and environment, advice is taken from online forums, Facebook and Google instead of the aunts and grannies.

Communication has changed enormously. How we get and consume the news is significantly different and sharing information with friends and family is easier, but not without danger. How do we traverse this minefield of social media while keeping both ourselves and our children safe?

Children’s verbal and physical development have decreased over the last few decades, largely attributed to the increase in children using screens as playtime instead of being outside, climbing, running and problem solving. Social relationships are not being formed and interpersonal communication has all but ceased in the face of social media. When last did you write a letter or pick up the phone instead of sending a text message or writing on someone’s timeline?

A child’s brain is still developing and is malleable, and with every new notification or distraction, attention gets divided. Attention is critical to creativity; it keeps their little minds focused which helps with problem solving and engagement.

In a 2010 survey of children in the US, it was found that 90% of children have an online presence by the time they are two. This is purely from parents sharing their lives – a phenomenon known as “sharenting”.

“First, you are creating a digital history for a human being that will follow him or her for the rest of their life. What kind of footprint do you want to start for your child, and what will they think about the information you’ve uploaded in future?” – AVG technologies, published on Business Wire on 6 October 2010.

It’s certainly an important question to consider.

How has it changed our parenting?

We Stop and Think, but not in a good way. Instead of enjoying their first word or the first time your son runs a race, you stop and wonder if this is Facebook-worthy, or if you can you fit it into a TikTok video. We don’t just enjoy for the sake of it anymore. We’re constantly seeking social gratification for precious moments that don’t require it. In that small moment of reaching for your phone you can miss an important step in your child’s development.

We constantly compare. Thanks to social media we are constantly seeing what your sister, cousin or friends are up to, what their children are achieving, who is speaking, singing or dancing first. You can’t get away from it. Whenever you open your phone it is there, taunting you.

It steals our time. Have you noticed how many times you pick your phone up? Have you logged the number of hours you spend scrolling through social media, blogs or status updates? It’s an endless pit. Keeping a track of your social media use will surprise you to see exactly how much time you’re spending scrolling mindlessly versus what you could be spending your time on. Balance is key here, it doesn’t mean you have to give it up cold turkey, just manage your time and invest more time in your children!

Bragging and oversharing becomes our habit. Nowadays, all our moments whether private or not, land up on social media sites. We are all proud of our children and we want people to know it, but moderation is key. There is a fine line between pride and egotism. There’s a fine line, and in return our children could become hungry for fame, gratification and social praise – they want to see themselves, what we say about them and how many likes they have received.

Through social media we are losing the art of communication and relationship building. We are forgetting to spend time in the moment instead of being behind our phones, but it’s not all bad.

We have connected with more friends and family than was ever thought possible. People who wouldn’t have otherwise communicated after losing touch have suddenly become closer, we can share our lives with them without waiting for family reunions. Information is at our fingertips; we can find things out that much faster. Connections are easier and plans can be made instantly.

Tips for safe and general use

  • Understand all the applications that your children use There are a myriad apps available, so make sure that you have installed them yourself and you understand all the nuances of the app before allowing your child to play on
  • Set rules for screen time. It is recommended that children aged from two to five are limited to one hour per day (TV, cell phones and tablets combined).
  • Make sure that all your social media has good privacy settings, set up a fake profile that you do not connect to and use this to test your active profile as often as possible to ensure that your photos and updates cannot be
  • Be a good role model: if you are on your phone all evening, don’t expect your child to do anything different.
  • Screen time should not equal alone time. Engage with your child by playing with them, encourage them to share this time with you, and show an interest in what they are doing, as this will alert you to anything you need to be concerned
  • Create tech free zones, keeping mealtimes and bedrooms free of technology. Switch off the TV during family time and encourage face to face time. Build relationships and talk to one another.
  • Remove geotags (location) from your photos. This will avoid anyone being able to track you via your
  • Avoid the names of your children and posting pictures of them in their school uniforms or against any recognisable

The basic rule of thumb is to assume that with everything you post there is an element of risk. Treat every interaction as if you were walking through sand ‒ you leave a footprint and an echo of who you are and where you have been.

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