The social media dilemma of being a parent

Parenting brings with it so many roles and responsibilities; not least trying to raise a baby into a well-rounded human, (apart from the Kevin years). The worries of the everyday are exacerbated when placed in the context of modern parenthood. More worries than ever following the rise of chat rooms in the 1990s and now social media.

Giving them access…?

Social media parenting
The changing face of social means it’s unlikely older parents are using the same social media channels as their children, especially if you have teenagers. Any modern teenager worth their social salt sees Snapchat or Instagram as their channels of choice. Fact:

She will be 13 in a couple of weeks so we said she could have her own Facebook / Twitter account but she says they are lame and Snapchat is all she’s bothered about!
Parent 1, teenage girl.

Of course when it comes to Snapchat (and now Instagram thanks to Stories), the throwaway, ‘in the moment’ nature is no doubt concerning for parents, but that’s the appeal for kids. They don’t live and reflect in the same way adults do; their lives are hourly, rapidly shifting and evolving. Like any app, it can be abused – but so can any conversation. A parent’s responsibility lies with educating their children the best they can, teaching them the principles of right and wrong and helping them learn from inevitable mistakes. Discussing the channels with your kids and knowing they’re using them is far better than a complete lack of understanding – on both sides of the argument.

Let’s face it:

In the end, there’s not a lot I can do to shield her from things and growing up… and nor should I.
Parent 1, teenage girl.

Social before they can walk and talk

Social media parenting privacy

It’s also not just a case of worrying what our kids are up to online when they’re old enough to send a Snap or publish to Instagram, it also affects first-time parents. The question of, “should I be putting their pictures on social in the first place?” is a common debate. As parents, this debate now occurs before our child is born. Some agree not to post anything at all:

We had that same discussion when he was born and we both made that decision to never put his pictures on Facebook. We don’t know who’s seeing it and not keen on people who aren’t ‘close’ family knowing too much about our lives. It’s a total privacy thing for us.
Parent 2, baby boy.

And decisions are made to make sure no unwanted individuals are able to see these photos:

When I had my first, I thought about it a lot and decided to make sure my friends list was limited to people I would want to see the updates and set my privacy settings accordingly.
Parent 3, two young boys.

The concern as you worry which disturbed individuals may be wrongly enjoying what you share is obviously real, but there’s also a very different view – how will my child view these images when they’re older? I imagine most people reading this are too old to have numerous pictures of their teen years shared on social media. And unless you’re significantly younger than I am, any baby pictures you haven’t uploaded yourself will be rare to nil. Something certainly considered by new parents:

I’m 100% against putting pictures of him in the bath or doing anything that would embarrass him when he’s older.
Parent 4, baby boy.

At the same time, for some parents there’s a sense of honest realisation about the way the internet works:

I have my settings to be friends only, so I’m not really worried about that. I also think that if there are weirdos out there who are sick enough to get their rocks off to a picture of my child, it’s beyond my control, as long as they don’t actually come anywhere near her in real life.
Parent 5, school-aged girl.

It depends how you want to use it

Social media and parenting
The personal nature of social media, inherent in its very name, means everyone uses it differently. Just like when we share non-baby related content, we all have our reasons for sharing what we do. The reasons vary:

The majority of my family live in Scotland and sadly haven’t met her yet, while my husband’s side are either down South or abroad – so it’s a good way of sharing our pride and joy with them.
Parent 6, baby girl.

Likewise, for other parents their views are similar:

I’m always posting pics of him. Especially every month or so to update our family and friends who don’t live close to us or see us very often. I think it’s a good way to see him grow when they can’t be near us. My profile is private but I have been continually reevaluating my friends list as well! I wouldn’t do embarrassing photos though.
Parent 7, baby boy.

Alternatively there’s the sense of wider community you get with social media. It connects you with individuals who are experiencing the same things in life with their children:

I have no issue posting photos on Instagram or Facebook as everyone I’m connected to is a friend or family member, or someone I’ve known in some form in my life or part of a group I’m connected with. Social media is sociable – it’s fun to post photos as part of a group using a hashtag so others can see them, becoming part of a wider community.
Parent 8, baby boy.

However, other parents do question how wise it is to open yourself up to these communities by using hashtags that related to age or growing up (#XXweeksold, #kidsofinstagram etc.) They could be monitored by suspicious individuals:

If anyone was was searching for #20weekold, I’d be suspicious of their motive. Even for Instagram. I wouldn’t want photos of her to be ‘searchable’ under a term I might connect with people specifically looking for photos of children.
Parent 5, school-aged girl

Your baby, your rules

Social media and parenting blog
A view shared by a number of the parents I spoke to, is the importance of people respecting their decisions when it comes to their children. Each and every one was very conscious of anyone sharing photographs of their children without permission, and expected the same respect for their little ones. Rogue grandparents and other family members are notable guilty parties:

I don’t like it when people put pictures up of him on his own on social media without asking me… mainly because I know who is on my social media but I don’t know who’s on theirs.
Parent 4, baby boy.

New born parents are very aware of this:

I wouldn’t post any of anyone else’s child without knowing their position first as it’s such a personal thing.
Parent 8, baby boy.

Sometimes, other people have to be spoken with, as the parent explains why they’re not happy with the individual sharing photos of their child without permission:

We’ve actually had to speak to one or two people who shared photos of him without asking us first. They weren’t embarrassing or inappropriate ones but it’s the principle of helping them understand he’s our child and our decisions is final. Thankfully, they all understood.
Parent 9, baby boy.

The decision is personal

One thing all parents can agree on is their photos reflect the best of their children. A side they want to share:

I am also very aware now that of course any updates show a very particular side of our life as parents, i.e. I wouldn’t post about the boys’ tantrums or our bad days.
Parent 3, two young boys.

No one’s views are right or wrong on this matter – as a parent your decision is final. Other influences may play their part, you can seek out advice or have it forced upon you, but ultimately your choices help define your son or daughter’s life. As they grow and their awareness of social media increases, these choices will make their mark, helping your child make better, more informed and sensible decisions.

In one way these choices are something to cherish forever; the ultimate life challenge, but forever a privilege.

As it would be rather ironic of me to name them, thanks to everyone who shared their views… you know who you are.

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Dave

Dad to Zach, digital marketeer at Tank PR, Derby County fan, film buff, book worm and husband. In that order, but don't tell the wife.