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Parental Advisory: When not posting about your kids online freaks you out

little boy computer
Image: baona/Getty Images

Answer: 

You’ve asked an astute question, MTM, and one that most parents wouldn’t be so bold to ask — even though I think a lot of parents (especially moms) feel similarly to you and have the same thoughts rolling through their minds. As we continue to see the ways new parents interact with social media, it’s easy to wonder if your kid might somehow be “missing out” if he can’t look back and find a series of updates about his conception, gestation, birth, first smile, first shart, first everything.

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To those of us who grew up in the now-ancient times before social media, there was never any expectation that our parents’ love for us could be qualified by looking at some sort of public or semi-private record. I never assessed how my parents felt about my academic performance, for example, by reading through an endless scroll in which they meticulously documented and scrapbooked every first day of school photo, every report card, every science fair project, etc. I could learn all of that by living with them and talking to them. It just wasn’t how kids sussed out where they stood with their parents — and in many ways, I think that’s a great thing.

How easy is it for parents who might not be doing a stellar job at raising and/or being there for their kids to just post photos on Facebook and give the appearance that they’re a “#1 Mom” or a “World’s Best Dad”? There’s a mirage on social media, and it disguises fact from fiction. That’s why it’s suddenly become so trendy for parents to post about how life is more imperfect than they let on in Instagram photos. Parents are overwhelmed with showing off and painting a picture-perfect life online, when in reality, life is more harried and messy than that.

But since you sound pretty secure in your parenting, I don’t think you’re asking me what your friends on Facebook think or what to do about presenting the kind of faux perfection we’re all so conditioned to seeing. You seem confident in your decision not to be fake, not to brag about your kid and not to participate in the song and dance Facebook often requires of us to appear like we’re “whole.” And what’s funny is, most of the questions I get of this nature are more along the lines of, “Are kids going to grow up to hate their parents for posting every detail of their lives on social media before they could walk, talk or have a say in their online persona?” That question has been asked by more journalists writing about the ramifications of social media than I can count, and my answer to it is always the same: “Kids probably won’t grow up to hate their parents or get bullied by other kids about embarrassing potty photos or not get elected to office when they’re older because of something their mom posted on social media when they were a toddler; rather, they’re more inclined to grow up thinking that heightened levels of exposure and living in public are “normal,” and some will model their social media presence on how their parents engage online, while others will probably shun sites like Facebook altogether.”

Next Up: What the kids want

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