Parenting in the age of Facebook: The pros and cons

Feb 19, 2013 at 4:00 p.m. ET

These days it seems like everyone is connected by Facebook, and it's definitely a place where parenting topics are often discussed — but beware. Facebook does have a negative side for moms.

Mom on the computer

Sometimes Facebook can be an amazing support network and a way to connect with other moms for friendship and parenting advice. Other times it can turn into another battleground for the mommy wars.

Parenting has changed so much since our parents’ generation, and social media plays a huge role in that change. It’s hard to imagine parenting without around-the-clock access to much needed parenting advice, information, and the ability to connect with other moms. As a society, we have never been more interconnected, but the way we connect via social media outlets like Facebook can be both a blessing and a curse.

Kirk Voss, a Utah-based licensed marriage and family therapist says that Facebook can provide moms with a sense of connection and community. Voss says that it is human nature to seek out a sense of security, validation, and a feeling of being loved and appreciated. “Women, whether working from home or raising children, or both, very often seek those three things through a social connection with other women — and that's where Facebook becomes so meaningful for moms.” Voss says, “They can connect with a community of other moms, nearby or distant, and feel a sense of validation, empathy, confidence, reassurance and appreciation.”

Why moms love Facebook

Tina Hakala, mother of three in Michigan, loves the feeling of connectedness that Facebook provides her. “Connecting with other moms on Facebook has most definitely made me a better mother. It has increased my patience, given me a host of lactation consultants and midwives to get advice from, and it makes me feel like I'm not alone in this crazy, wonderful whirlwind of parenting.”

To moms who are feeling like they are the only ones pulling their hair out at the end of the day, seeing Facebook posts by other moms can be comforting. “Facebook puts things in perspective for me when other parents rant about losing their minds. It makes me relax and be more patient with my own kids,” Hakala says.

Voss says that Facebook can be a good outlet for a mom to share her feelings and experiences with a community of people who know exactly what she is going through. He adds, “Almost instantly, moms can hear words of encouragement, reassurances that things will work out, suggestions for almost any parenting dilemma, and most importantly, words of empathy and validation when life gets hard.” The feeling that we’re all in this together is what brings many moms to Facebook day after day.

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The downside of Facebook

While some moms view Facebook as an invaluable tool in their parenting arsenal, other moms see it more negatively. Cristina Wong, mom to one in Arizona, thinks that Facebook can be a source of unnecessary drama: “Topics that would have never come up in regular conversation come up on Facebook, and responses are there for everyone to see.”

Wong says she has lost friends over disagreements on Facebook. “I find that people say things in ways they never would face-to-face and have no problem gathering a lynch mob when they disagree on a topic.” In the world of Facebook, it can be easy for moms to broadcast opinions on hot-button topics, leading to another battle in the so-called mommy wars.

“Sometimes we start out wanting very simple advice on a certain topic, and the comments that follow can become overwhelming, depressing, or unhelpful,” cautions Voss. Unsolicited advice from others can often leave us feeling lectured or judged, rather than supported.

Check out these tips for handling internet disputes >>

It's all about balance

Andrea Engelman, mom of two, thinks it’s possible to discuss parenting topics and still keep it friendly.  “Remember that everyone only wants the best for their children, even if we might disagree on what’s best. Sometimes we might even learn something from someone we previously disagreed with,” Engelman says.

Voss points out that it is important to keep our Facebook relationships in perspective. “While Facebook can be a fun, comforting and bonding network, it shouldn't become our main source of connection.” Facebook should be a means to supplement our interactions with other people, and not completely replace that social connection.

More on Facebook and parenting

Facebook and kids: How young is too young?
Can you steer your kids away from Facebook?
7 Tips for Facebook parents