Do you announce your child’s A+ report card on Facebook? Post photos of every milestone? You undoubtedly mean well by noting your kids’ accomplishments online, but it’s time to find out if your social media behavior could have you raising a future narcissist.
“81 percent of the world’s children have an online presence before the age of two,” says Larry Bugen, psychologist and author of Stuck on Me… Missing You. “Four out of five children have a projected ‘image’ before they have personally shaped an ‘identity.'”
Social media sites offer opportunities to inform your network about family achievements, but too much bragging may negatively impact your child’s development. These four signs will help you determine whether your social media usage may be turning your child into a narcissist.
You’ve succumbed to online overload
Beyond kid-centric Facebook and Twitter posts, thousands of parents are buying a domain name for their child or writing blogs from the child’s point of view. “Clever” can quickly turn into “self-centered.”
“What happens when these babies and toddlers grow up and Google themselves?” asks John Lee, L.C.S.W. and psychotherapist. As we should all know by now, you have a footprint in cyberspace, and you may be creating an undesirable one for your child.
You have perfect progeny
Parents don’t often post about their child’s failures. This focus on “perfection” can lead to self-absorption, narcissism and socially maladjusted children, explains Dr. John Mayer, a clinical psychologist.
“Children need to be raised in a realistic environment,” Mayer says. Only acknowledging the “perfect” can fuel depression and anxiety, which could result in your child isolating themselves from the world and destroying their social skills.
Instead of failure being a learning opportunity, it can feel like a profound loss or traumatic event for the “perfect” child, Lee explains. The narcissist, in their own mind, cannot fail.
You’re branding your child
The brand of perfection is bad enough. But are you constantly telling your online audience your child is a genius, the best at everything? Reinforcing positives can be just as damaging as reinforcing negatives.
“Children are continuously learning, growing and trying on different hats and interests,” says Lee. “It’s not fair for children to be stuck with labels they have no control over.” The result? “Long-term effects of early labels could contribute to an inflated and narrow sense of self,” he explains.
Has your own identity disappeared?
A Parents Network MomTrack Survey found that 33 percent of moms use a picture of their little one for their own profile picture on Facebook.
“Parents are living vicariously through their children rather than messaging about events and accomplishments in their own lives,” says Mayer. “These parents often suffer from low self-esteem and lack of confidence in their own abilities, skills and intelligence.”
You don’t have to give up your parental right to occasionally boast about your child, but you may want to clean up the online presence you’ve created for your kid through social media, and even consider going on a technology diet. It may be just as refreshing for you as it is for all of your followers and, eventually, your child.