There is now plenty of discussion about how harmful platforms can be for children. Isn’t it about time we also owned up to the impact it has on the adults in their lives too?
We can all fall into the “looking good on Insta” trap. Until recently, I’ve been, like most parents I know, proud of my children, happy to share with friends and family the bright spots of our day, pictures of the happy times we have together.
At its best, of course, and the reason we like it, is social media creates connections between people and captures moments and memories we all love to share. There’s a lot going for it. But the truth is this is only part of the social media story. It doesn’t show the bad days.
When we post the latest picture of our children’s latest achievements, how often do we, as parents, point out that things are not always this way? That yesterday I was feeling really down, actually, that I cried myself to sleep with exhaustion, was worried sick about paying the bills, sleep-deprived and anxious about that visit to the hospital. Or that while I love my children, sometimes I just feel lonely and completely overwhelmed by the realities of being a parent.
There is now plenty of discussion about how harmful social media is for children, with its links to cyberbullying, sleep loss and lack of exercise. A recent study from Imperial College and University College London found children using social media sites multiple times a day raise their risk of psychological distress by around 40 per cent, compared to logging on weekly or less.
Isn’t it about time we also owned up to the impact social media has on parents at a time when they are particularly vulnerable, navigating all the new challenges that come with having young children? At Home-Start, the local community family support network, we know that many parents are feeling inadequate and doubting their ability to make their children happy. Much of this comes from comparing themselves to fellow mums and dads online. For parents going through a hard time, photos of holidays, children in pristine outfits and perfect days out play to all the insecurities a struggling parent is feeling, and can make them feel even more isolated and alone.