Yesterday, an opinion piece was posted on CNN. The title was “Why Facebook Parenting Can Backfire”. Ignoring the information about crowdsorcing which, honestly has nothing to do with personal posts on social media, its biggest points were: how would your child like that you are airing their dirty laundry on Facebook & that posting questions on facebook can erode your own personal parenting skills. The idea of “How do you think it would make your daughter/son feel to know you posted about their tantrum online asking for advice” seems rather silly to me though. Social media is a form of communication. Typically, the people you share this kind of information would be family and friends.
Parenting is really, really hard. Everything that you do, from how you handle bad behavior to how you keep your sanity when you’ve had 3 hours of sleep, can affect your children. Every child is different and what may have worked for you as a child may not be working for your child now. What do we do? Where do we turn?
Once upon a time and in some places still, families lived tightly together, sometimes in the same house, but mostly in the same town. The internet was new, Facebook didn’t exist, we couldn’t text, but we could get together for a Mommy meeting or call our parents for advice. Talking about our children’s behavior is not something new because of social media. A popular quote in reference to this is “It takes a village to raise a child”. Why? Because new parents or parents with children who have very different personality have always reached out to their “village” to help them raise their children, either through helping watch them or by asking questions and getting advice. The only difference now is that something you post on Facebook, can probably be viewed in 10 years because it’s on the internet, however, the likely-hood that Facebook will still be a thing in 10 years, is questionable, and something new will probably be in place.
Look, I get it. I get that if you just randomly invite strangers to be your Facebook friends and have poor privacy filters set up, then yes, there could be some harm in this. And quite frankly, with internet predators out there, this seems to be poor decision making. I personally would not wander up to a random person on the street and start airing my issues or showing my children’s baby pictures to them, but I might reach out to an old friend from high school who has a child the same age as mine and share this with them. Asking for help when your 6 month old who is going through a nursing strike, your 2 year old has a strange rash, or even when your 7 year old who throws an embarrassing tantrum in Walmart, isn’t wrong. And unfortunately, for many such as myself, my village is Facebook because I don’t have time to call every individual family member and friend that I have to find out how they got through it.
Another plus about Facebook/social media, is finding those who are like minded. While this does entail being a little bit more intimate about what you post if you are concerned about strangers, there are many Facebook groups that are geared by a specific topic. For example: I am part of a local natural parenting group. They have a Facebook group as well as hold local meetings. I unfortunately can’t make these meetings, especially with my work schedule so I tend to rely on the group instead. While I do not typically post pictures of my kids in this group, I do ask questions about behavior, abnormal bodily functions, and so on. I feel at ease talking with this group because I know they have the same opinions about me, and I won’t have to defend some of my personal choices (such as nursing and co-sleeping). While I am more cognizant of what I post, I still use this group for exactly what it is, a place of support.
Why are we shaming parents into not asking for help? Why aren’t we applauding them for not just mucking through it and for doing research and asking what works for other parents who may have had the same issue? Instead we are worried about how our child will feel about something in 10 years? How is this any different than that embarrassing story that families pass around at a family gathering that happened to you 28 years ago? We learn from example and experience. And when parents don’t ask for help, I think that is when we sometimes do more damage. What may seem abnormal and crazy to you, maybe something that a friend or family member went through as well, and once they were able to relate to their child, it wasn’t as abnormal or crazy as they had once thought. Fact is, asking for help on Facebook or posting about how to get your kids to enjoy their vegetables, is a way for the “village” to help a parent keep their sanity, or even reaffirm that you are doing the best you can. My take on it? Stop judging all parents for asking for help on Facebook/social media and bundling them in with parents who are crowdsourcing (such as “Hey internet, name my daughter”) and/or parents who make poor decisions in regards to who has access to their Facebook by ignoring privacy settings and/or adding random strangers to their personal Facebook page. And for those who don’t want to share their child’s behavior or pictures online due to their opinions on individual privacy? Good for you for standing up for what you believe in, but don’t shame another parent who doesn’t see a picture of their kid covered in spaghetti sauce as a private item.