In this age of sharing our every emotion on social media, kids can sometimes take the brunt of it. I get it — parenting is hard, and our kids do stuff that drive us mad sometimes. But while posting a video of your kid having a meltdown might net you some likes, it’s not going to prevent them from having a meltdown in the future. In fact, it may have the opposite effect.
I see many posts of people’s kids doing or saying something embarrassing that could haunt both the child and the parents in the future. There was even a TikTok trend of locking your kid in a room to scare the shit out of them — which, as this article from Parents.com points out — can lead to lasting trauma. And for what? Even if the post goes viral, what good is it doing? Is it generating money for your child’s education fund? Is it landing you a high-paying keynote speaker gig at the Alternative Parenting convention? Is it winning you attention from influencers and celebrities? No.
It’s showing you don’t have much foresight because you’re too blinded by your own short-lived fame.
Other posts I’ve seen poke fun at their own kids’ physical features or habits, which seems harmless and cute in most cases. However, it can lead to insecurity about their bodies, and even cause body dysmorphic disorder (BDD), a mental health condition. BDD is not just teens worrying about their appearance — it can affect anyone at any age. I myself have had bouts of it (in adulthood) due to family members pointing out my physical flaws over the years. I don’t think they had ill intentions, but their comments stayed with me. (Luckily, they didn’t have social media when I was growing up.)
Parents shouldn’t make their children’s differences all about them
There’s another thing I see often from parents on social media. It’s repeatedly posting about their child’s autism, ADHD, or something else that impacts their behaviour and social responses. These parents might mean well, but they have (perhaps inadvertently) crafted their entire online identity about their child’s challenges. They’ve made it all about themselves.
I get that some parents need extra support, and may just be reaching out to other parents in the same situation for advice. However, many posts are not asking for solutions to improve their kid’s quality of life — they’re only detailing how hard their own life is as a result.
These types of posts are not considering what it’s like to be actually autistic, or how it might make them feel to read they’re a burden. Also, health is a personal thing to share — perhaps the child doesn’t want everyone to know about it.
It’s true that many parents are using social media to genuinely advocate for their children, and this is well intentioned. However, the focus is often on telling parents how to manage their lives — not so much about actually helping the children. (The hashtag #ActuallyAutistic sprung up recently to switch the focus from neurotypical parents to those who actually have experienced autism.)
Posting your kids is okay, but think twice about the impacts
I’m not saying parents who post “cute” videos of their kids online that make them the punchline are being willfully malicious. We parents want to share our kids’ lives — we love them and are proud of them — and social media makes it easier than ever to do this. It would actually be unusual to have zero posts about your child if you’re active on social media. No doubt kids will want to see some of the highlights of their youth they may have forgotten.
However, us parents need to stop and consider the potential future fallout before we post that clip of our child running into a wall at full speed or something. Even if the child is not shown in a parent’s post at all, people can quickly figure out who it’s referring to based on the account. (Bragging to your followers about trolling your kids when they aren’t in on the joke is not healthy.)
Sometimes a child/teen will themselves post a funny exchange with their parents, and that’s okay. Some of these posts are genuinely clever and amusing, and implies the child is fine with the content. It also shows the child is aware of the post, which is not always the case.
My partner and I post pictures/videos of our son from time to time. We want to share his highlights, and friends/family like seeing what he’s up to. Our son is okay with it, and sometimes even encourages us to do it. Other times he has asked us not to post something about him, and we comply. He seems to understand that our posts about him come from a place of love, not from a place of shame or frustration.
We always try to look at it through the lens of how he will perceive the posts in the future. Will it upset him or make him resentful towards us? Will it be fodder for his friends or strangers to ridicule him? Kids and teens have enough trouble trying to navigate the social landscape — they don’t need a video of them as a toddler asking their parents how to wipe their ass posted on social media.
We all have embarrassing or less-than-stellar moments, but they don’t have to end up on social media. In fact, adults often remove content about them or tags they don’t approve of. So why are these same adults posting content about their kids without considering how it might affect their children, and even their relationship with them later in life?
This post was previously published on medium.com.
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Photo credit: image by author using Midjourney