We all have moments we want to showcase on Instagram and Facebook—the one's that are posed, edited, and "perfect" for social. Sometimes we do it for the likes, and sometimes we post just to let our followers know what we're up to. But, when it comes to social, the thing on many parents' minds is whether it's okay and safe to post pictures of their children and babies on Instagram and Facebook. We weigh the pros and cons of 'sharenting,' but it's up to you to decide what's best for you: to share or not to share.
In parenthood, there are moments of mayhem we don’t want anyone else to see and moments we want to highlight on Instagram—and, if we’re being honest, moments of mayhem that are totally worthy of a post on Instagram. If this is something you know all too well, welcome to sharenthood.
It is no secret that as we scroll through our various social media feeds, most (if not all) of what we see is staged. Everyone has a different motive for posting their children on social media, and some choose to keep their babies off Facebook and Instagram completely.
The 38,000-follower Instagram account @thispugslife, winner of The Ellen DeGeneres Show’s Ellen Rate My Baby, began as an account showcasing Charlie, a black pug. Account creator Meredith Kreuger’s daughter was added to the mix when she was born. “Followers tell me all the time that the two of them make them smile and make them happy,” Kreuger says. “My goal is to make people laugh via Instagram and blogging. I love captioning photos and I love to write!”
There are parents who post pictures to keep their families in the loop, some who use Instagram as a scrapbook of sorts, others who are aiming to send a greater message, and in some cases, to receive a sense of validation. This all leads us to the question: to post or not to post?
Mac & Mia, an online children’s clothing service, surveyed 2,000 new parents about how they felt when it came to posting their babies on social media. The survey concluded there are two types of parents: those who claim they use social media to keep friends and family involved and develop content for future scrapbooking projects (87 percent) and those who have no shame in saying ‘it just feels good to show off my kid’ (13 percent).
Although parents link their posting motives to being about their kids, it turns out it’s more about appeasing themselves, according to Ida Jeltova, Ph.D., a licensed psychologist in Rockland and Bergen counties with more than 14 years of clinical experience working with children, youths, and families. “Social media provides a perception, if not actual validation, of ‘my child is liked and doing well. I am a good parent’,” she says.
There is a small population of parents who are competitive due to insecurity, Dr. Jeltova adds, which forces the child to develop an extension of parental ego and self-esteem. “The parent needs the child to be liked to feel likeable themselves,” she says.
At the end of the day, every parent is different, and there’s nothing wrong with feeling validated, whether you’re helping others by sending a message or it gives you an extra boost—as long as it’s all in good spirit.
Sending a Message
A national survey conducted by Edison Research, as a part of Minute Maid’s this is GOOD campaign, revealed that 94 percent of sharents stage their social media posts. Although this might seem shocking, it is important to remember that social media is meant for an audience and the photos are staged to project a motive, whether it’s clear or ambiguous.
For example, the Instagram account @papaanddaddy, which has 44,600 followers, is clear in its message and role in the social media world: to normalize same-sex parenting.
“There’s a lot of work left to be done in normalizing same-sex parenting. This is our small way of paying it forward,” says James Loduca, one of the dads behind the account. “At the end of the day, representation matters. It’s hard to dream about what you can’t see. As kids, there weren’t gay families represented in media. We want to do our part to change that for generations to come.”
But Be Conscious of Cyber Bullying
Christine Di’Amore, a Youtuber with nearly 300,000 subscribers, is best known for her videos about makeup and lifestyle. Despite her Internet presence, she has chosen to keep her daughter out of the public eye for now.
“While hateful comments don’t hurt me, a lot of people who aren’t conditioned to the harsh world that social media can be (like my daughter) might be more affected by those words, regardless of how ridiculous or untrue they are,” Di’Amore says. “If my daughter does come across any negative comments, she knows I will have a conversation with her and try to help her understand the psyche behind those who bully others, and the reason they want to bring others down to their level.”
As children grow older and have more access to the Internet they will come to realize cyber bullies are everywhere. While their hurtful comments can be ignored, they might be hard to brush off. On the flip side, being exposed to cyber bullying at a young age can help children understand how to deal with it as they enter their teenage years.
“Another reason for not sharing that I often hear is a desire to protect the child’s privacy. The child has the right to be growing up in a protected, emotionally safe environment,” Dr. Jeltova says. “Having his or her images posted is inviting feedback and judgment and potentially jeopardizes the privacy and emotional safety.”
When you place yourself in the public eye, whether it’s to express a message to thousands of followers or you’re sharing your child’s preschool graduation, there is a safety concern and a leeway for hatred. “There are a ton of people out there that are looking to do harm in a variety of ways,” says Amaliya Makarovskaya, a Manhattan mom of two. “I find that there is very little to be gained from social media in general, especially through my kids posts.”
Circling back to the Mac & Mia survey, 42 percent of parents say they have planned posts of their children in advance and have spent up to 2 hours to get the perfect shot. As with all things when it comes to parenting, it’s ultimately up to you to weigh the pros and cons of sharing snapshots of your children on social media, but think beyond safety and look into your true motive for posting a photo of your child. Remember: There is a definitive line between remembering a moment and wasting time.
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