Chances are your Facebook and Instagram feeds are currently flooded with back-to-school photos. In the past, proud parents plopped a basic homemade sign (Think: printer paper, Sharpie, and “Second Grade!” ) — in their kids’ hands. But this year, the stakes have risen: Some parents are elevating these signs to a work of art — featuring elaborate chalkboards with fancy fonts and personal details, from their kid’s school name and grade level, to their favorite activities, to what they want to be when they grow up.
These gorgeous signs are homemade, ordered from Etsy or downloaded online (Pinterest has thousands of them). But because we live in a social media age, where it’s easier than ever to compare yourself to moms and dads who post these perfect photos, it can leave some parents feeling, well, a little bad.
And, more importantly, these signs may also put your kids at risk.
“I kind of can’t stand it,” mom of three Jennifer Bickerton tells Yahoo Beauty. “I think it makes those not doing it feel like underachievers. I work a lot of hours in a week and don’t have time to perfect the ‘first-day, up-and-at-’em’ photo … and then edit it with filters. I am happy if my kids have matching socks and brushed hair for the first day!”
Mom of two Rachel Sterling agrees. “This year, my Facebook feed has been over-the-top with first-day-of-school pics,” she tells Yahoo Beauty. “I think the first-day-of-school pic should capture the experience for the child, not the parent’s desire for an Insta-worthy moment.”
Elizabeth Lombardo, Ph.D., clinical psychologist and author of Better than Perfect: 7 Strategies to Crush Your Inner Critic and Create a Life You Love, notes that how things look on social media is a big influence on why some parents create these signs in the first place. “Perfectionism could certainly be playing a role here when it comes to posting the chalkboard signs,” she tells Yahoo Beauty. “Rather than just using them to document in a picture as a reminder for years to come, parents may be very conscious of how the sign looks to others.”
But if it makes you happy, is there anything really wrong with it? No, says Lombardo. “There is no harm, per se, with having a pretty chalkboard,” she notes. “The harm comes when there is stress or judgment towards yourself or others regarding the look of the chalk sign. As a society, we have become so perfectionistic — all or nothing, perfect or failure — that it can take away from the moment, which is to appreciate that your child is entering a new grade.”
That said, Sterling brings up an important point about why you may want to rethink including every little detail, such as your child’s school, on that back-to-school sign when it’s posted online. “I’m also concerned parents are posting too much information on public channels, which could expose their children to risk.” Parenting recommends keeping some important details offline: “Keep children safe by never sharing their full names, addresses, where they go to school, if they are babysitting alone somewhere, etc., online. You don’t know who might use this information for purposes other than what was intended.”
What’s more, some older kids may not necessarily want you to post that back-to-school photo. When researchers from the University of Washington and the University of Michigan surveyed 249 parent-child pairs, they asked kids how they felt about their parents’ use of technology. According to the New York Times, the 2016 study found that some kids didn’t want their moms and dads to post anything about them online without asking them first.
Even those who leave out revealing details and get the green light from their older kids may still feel a twinge of envy while scrolling through Facebook and seeing those impeccable chalkboard signs. But don’t beat yourself up. “The take-home message is to focus on what’s important instead of trying to be perfect,” points out Lombardo.