If you can relate to this mom, you’re not alone: Most parents these days turn to their online networks for help raising kids. (Photo: Courtney Keating/iStock)
Ever posted a question about your toddler’s potty training issues to your Facebook friends or turned to an online parenting group for emotional backup while trying to help your teen deal with a class bully?
Then you’re parenting 21st century style, which means leaning heavily on social media for answers and support when it comes to raising kids. A new Pew Research Center study of more than 2,000 moms and dads found that 75 percent who had children younger than 18 rely on parenting social media sites and groups.
The most popular site was Facebook, used by almost three-quarters of respondents, followed by Pinterest and LinkedIn, the survey found. Mothers were more likely to rely on social media than fathers. “Forty-five percent of moms using social media said they ‘strongly agree’ that they get support from friends there, compared with 22 percent of fathers who replied that they ‘strongly agree,’ states the study.
Often, parents found help on child-related issues when they weren’t actually looking for it. “Some 59 percent of parents who are social media users said they had come across useful information about parenting while looking at social media content in the past 30 days,” reads the survey. Again, moms are more likely to say they come across information randomly than dads.
But almost half of all parents said they specifically turned to their online networks when they needed advice or a sense of community. “Overall, 42 percent of parents who use social media say that in the previous month, they received social or emotional support around a parenting issue on social media,” according to survey results.
And it’s not just about consuming information, but giving back, too. The survey found that “71 percent of all parents on social media try to respond if they know the answer to a question posed by someone in their online network.”
It’s not exactly a shock that social media is such a big part of parenting these days. Our online networks play a large role in other aspects of life, such as keeping up with family and job-seeking. What is surprising is the degree to which moms and dads rely on online friends and connections for help and support rearing kids.
With so much pressure these days to be a perfect parent, today’s mothers and fathers are seeking out information the way previous generations did not. “I see incredibly devoted and loving men and women who are overwhelmed and exhausted from the stress and strain of parenting,” family therapist Dr. Paul Hokemeyer tells Yahoo Parenting.
“They are desperate for that elusive instruction manual to tell them how to manage the pressure to parent ‘right.’ As such, they look for any bit of advice to steer them away from their confusion,” he says.
There’s nothing wrong with using social media for parenting help, of course. But using it exclusively can pose a problem. “The advice one gets from their peers and through social media is limited,” says Hokemeyer.
“Nonprofessionals, although passionate and knowledgeable of their own experience, lack the objectivity that is required when dealing with highly emotional issues such as parenting,” he says.
To take advantage of the sense of community social media offers, be clear about what kind of advice or support you need. “If you’re looking for support from peers, then seek out connections with other parents who are going through similar experiences in social media sites,” suggests Hokemeyer.
But if these sites or groups make you more confused or inadequate, he says, or they prompt you to compare your child to your friends’ kids, prompting envy and a sense of inadequacy, then it’s time to pull the plug.