In some ways, social media and kids seem to go together like peanut butter and jelly (or chili and crab!). But the combination has also created a whole new range of problems our parents never could have imagined, from narcissism to child pornography. Here’s what you can do to keep you and your little ones safe!
For years researchers and educators have been stressing the importance of early childhood education and stimulating experiences. As parents, we strive to make sure our little ones have access to preschool, learning materials, social programs, a wealth of books, and more. Yet while many of us worry about our kids hitting milestones, we might be overlooking how our own social media use affects their development.
Social Media And Parents: Toddlerhood Interrupted?
Today’s parents are dealing with an influx of technology and devices that makes it easier than ever to stay connected with friends and family. Simply snapping a photo or sharing a post on social media has revolutionized the way we communicate. But while there are a myriad of positives to this digital revolution, an unbalanced relationship with our devices can negatively impact our toddlers in a variety of ways.
Catherine Steiner-Adair, a prominent psychologist and author, says, “We are behaving in ways that certainly tell children they don’t matter, they’re not interesting to us, they’re not as compelling as anybody, anything, any ping that may interrupt our time with them.”
Our constant scrolling might unintentionally be taking hits to our children’s self-esteem, often creating feelings of depression and anxiety. The highly connected nature of our devices can distract us when we should be focused on our family, resulting in diminished amounts of face-to-face interaction with our kids.
To compound these negative feelings, our need to overshare every milestone or accomplishment can unintentionally set our babes up for becoming future narcissists. By constantly uploading every feat, no matter how small, we are overemphasising a child’s importance to others. This easily inflates egos and sends the false belief that the world revolves around them, or their value is based on the number of “likes” they garner.
We need to consider that we are sharing our child’s images without their consent, and that contributing to their digital footprint will follow them around for life. The need to follow our kids around with a camera 24/7 can capture some amazing photos, but at the same time we often capture embarrassing or shameful moments. It might be funny to post a toddler splashing naked in the tub, but fast forward 10 years and suddenly the image can be used to bully your teenager.
Oversharing can even put our children’s identities at risk. With every Facebook picture we post, we are broadcasting their full names, birthdates, schedules, and private information which can make it easy to snatch their identity. If the perpetrator isn’t interested in opening credit lines, with a few clicks of the keyboard they may “kidnap” our photos and post them on social media sites as their own children. Be vigilant about your privacy settings, bearing in mind that things can still fall through the cracks.
5 Ways To Dial Back Control
Realising that our devices can be harming our toddlers is frightening, but by being more intentional with our social media habits we can protect their childhood by embracing the following actions:
- Limit a young child’s technology exposure to educational materials to learn basic skills. Experts warn that too much screen time can inhibit learning. Usually around the ages of 3 to 5, children can enjoy games that build cognitive functions for a short time every day.
- Model a healthy relationship with social media and devices. We are our children’s best teachers and need to lead by example. Put your phone away during meals or conversations
- Set a daily amount of time to browse social media or play a game. It’s okay to indulge a little, but when the time has passed challenge yourself to power down and be present with our families.
- Ask yourself, Is this embarrassing? That photo might be cute today, but your child might not feel the same way tomorrow.
- It’s never too early to teach social media etiquette. As we are helping our kids learn manners, include digital ones. We will be empowering them for life as a digital native.
How do you protect your toddler from social media dangers, mama?