Being a parent in the age of social media

March 4th, 2019

Photo by Daniel Cheung on Unsplash.

From this broad survey of growing up when your parents are obsessed over documenting your every step on social media:

Cara and other tweens say they hope to lay down ground rules for their parents. Cara wants her mom to tell her the next time she posts about her, and the 11-year-old would like veto power over any photo before it goes up. “My friends will always text or tell me, like, ‘OMG that pic your mom posted of you is so cute,’ and I’ll get really self-conscious,” she said. Hayden, a 10-year-old, said he realized several years ago that his parents used a dedicated hashtag including his name on photos of him. He now monitors the hashtag to make sure they don’t post anything embarrassing.

Once kids have that first moment of realization that their lives are public, there’s no going back. Several teens and tweens told me this was the impetus for wanting to get their own social-media profiles, in an effort to take control of their image. But plenty of other kids become overwhelmed and retreat. Ellen said that anytime someone has a phone out around her now, she’s nervous that her photo could be taken and posted somewhere. “Everyone’s always watching, and nothing is ever forgotten. It’s never gone,” she said.

It’s a rather fascinating time that we live in. On one hand, this is the first generation of kids whose lives are being documented in public – or semi-public – ways, all without their direct involvement in these decisions. And on the other hand, this might also be the first and only generation of parents for whom the immediacy of about what is happening in their daily lives – most of which revolves around their kids – is only one step away from sharing those moments, no matter how big or small they are, on the latest hottest social platform.

There’s this observation that certain parental approaches skip a generation. If your parents were strict with you in a certain area, you may probably grow up and be quite hands off in that area with your own kids – trying, in a way, to make up for what you consider to be a “lost” part of your childhood. And then those kids take it back to the other extreme again.

Makes me wonder if today’s generation of tweens and those who will become tweens in the next five-ten years will be much more reserved about creating those public digital trails of their own kids…