Social Media Mistakes You Are Making as a Parent

Social Media Mistakes You Are Making as a Parent

Let’s face it. What it means to be “social” has changed a lot in the past decade or so. 

If you remember the days of choosing your Top 8 on MySpace or when you had to have a college email address to use Facebook, first of all, you may want to put on your reading glasses before continuing this article. Better, right? Just embrace it...

If social media has been prominent in your life since your high school and college days, you might not think twice before posting pics online—a recap of your weekend, a gym selfie, or even an Instagram story of the delicious avocado toast you had for breakfast.

But now, you're a parent. And maybe it feels almost impossible to not post all the photos of your adorable children and every adorable thing they do. Their first steps? How could you NOT share that with the world? And that tantrum they threw because their chicken nuggets tasted too much like chicken; well, it might just give some other exhausted parents a good laugh on a rough day.

And it's not just your own social media habits we need to be aware of. As kids get older, it's natural for them to want their own social media accounts. It's our responsibility as parents to teach them how to post online appropriately and in a way that keeps them safe.

Parenting in the Digital Age

Social media can be a fantastic way to stay connected and share moments with family and friends. But as parents, it's our responsibility to navigate the digital landscape carefully. By being aware of the risks and taking proactive steps to protect our children, we can ensure our kids enjoy the benefits of the digital age without the downsides.

Navigating the world of social media as a parent requires walking a fine line. On one hand, it's a platform for sharing joyous family moments and connecting with other like-minded parents. On the other, it presents a maze of potential risks and challenges that can impact our children in ways we might not fully anticipate. The digital landscape is ever-evolving, and as parents, our approach to it must be dynamic and informed.

In this digital age, parenting requires us to be both a guide and a guardian. Sharing every detail of our lives online, once a decision we didn't think twice about, now requires us to pause and consider the long-term effects on our children's privacy and security.

Common Mistakes Made By Parents of Social Media Babies

Here are some common mistakes you may not even know you're making when it comes to parenting in the age of social media. And let us be clear, by no means does it make you a bad parent if you're doing these things, but you should be aware of them so you can be proactive in keeping your children safe in the digital age.

1. Oversharing Personal Information

When we post every moment of our children's lives online, their digital footprint lasts forever. Now that the first social media babies are growing up, they're voicing their unhappiness about having their entire childhoods documented online for hundreds (sometimes thousands) of people to see.

In an age when it seems like everyone is becoming a mom influencer, it may seem harmless to post photos of your kids and family online, and for some, it's even a lucrative source of income. But it doesn't come without its consequences.

From the risk of identity theft to the dangers of child predators coming across your photos (yes, this can happen even with private accounts), we must consider the unintended consequences of documenting every moment of our lives online.

2. Posting Embarrassing Photos or Videos of Your Kids Online

Remember those childhood tantrums that seem funny at the moment? Well, they might not be so funny to your child a few years down the line. Child actors and kid influencers have spoken out about how these posts have affected their self-esteem and privacy. One 24-year-old even shares how her mom posted about her first period online, which resulted in bullying at school.

Think about how your child might feel about these posts when they're older. This issue raises questions about consent and autonomy. Young children aren't in a position to give consent about what we share about them online. As they get older, they may resent not having had a say in what parts of their childhood were made public. This can affect their trust in their parents and impact their own attitudes towards privacy and sharing personal information.

3. Lack of Awareness of Privacy Settings

Many parents share photos without checking who can see their posts. This oversight can unintentionally expose your family to a wider audience than intended, including people with malicious intent. Educate yourself on the privacy settings provided by social media platforms so you can control who sees your posts, from friends and family to friends of friends.

Regularly updating your privacy settings is also important, as platforms often update their privacy policies and settings, which can reset your preferences or introduce new options for managing your visibility online.

4. Not Monitoring Your Kids' Social Media Accounts

As kids grow, they'll likely want their social media profiles. As parents, it's our job to monitor these accounts to ensure they're not sharing too much information or interacting with strangers. We need to educate our children about the safe use of social media, including what is appropriate to post and share with others. This can include regular discussions about the content they view and share, the friends they interact with, and the overall time they spend online. Establishing these open lines of communication early on sets the foundation for responsible and safe social media use.

5. Ignoring Signs of Cyberbullying

Unfortunately, cyberbullying is a reality in today's digital world, where anonymous comments can have serious effects on a child's mental health. The signs might not always be obvious, especially if your child is trying to handle the situation on their own or feels embarrassed about being targeted. Look for changes in their behavior, such as sudden changes in mood after being online or an unwillingness to discuss what they’re doing on social media.

Regular conversations about online interactions can help your child recognize cyber bullying and give them strategies to deal with it. Encourage them to block or report bullies and reassure them that they're not alone in confronting these challenges.

6. Not Setting Screen Time Limits

Excessive screen time has been linked to a range of issues, from poor sleep quality to reduced physical activity and even difficulties in attention and learning. By establishing screen time limits, you're encouraging your child to engage in a variety of activities, which promotes a healthier lifestyle that includes physical activity, reading, and face-to-face interactions (remember those?!).

Creating a screen time schedule or using apps that monitor and limit use can be effective strategies. You might also consider screen time limits that are not time-based but rather location-based. For  example, you might try setting a rule that no one in the home users phones in their bedroom at night. 

Whatever screen time boundaries are right for your family, be sure to involve your child in these decisions, explaining why it's important to have time away from screens. This not only helps in enforcing these rules but also teaches them self-regulation and the value of engaging in experiences beyond the digital world. Encouraging hobbies that don't involve screens, like sports, music, art, or even just riding bikes through the neighborhood with friends like we used to do as kids.

7. Using Social Media as a Babysitter

It's tempting to hand over a tablet to keep your child entertained with hours of TikTok, but this shouldn't replace real human interaction. Digital devices can offer educational content, but they can't make up for the interaction that kids get from playing with friends or engaging in creative play. Real-world experiences beyond social media are essential for developing social skills, emotional understanding, and problem-solving abilities.

Encouraging activities that don't involve screens, like reading together, playing board games, or outdoor activities, can provide opportunities for bonding and learning. You can also teach your child the benefits of independent play so that when you need some quiet time your child can entertain themselves.

8. Not Educating Kids About Online Safety

Children need to know the basics of online safety, like not sharing personal information and what to do if they stumble across something uncomfortable. This education should start early, using age-appropriate language to explain the value of privacy and the potential risks of interacting online. It's also important to teach children about the permanence of the internet; once something is shared, it lives on the internet forever.

Encourage them to ask questions and share their online experiences so you can identify any misunderstandings or areas where they may need further guidance. By providing children with knowledge and strategies for online safety, we can empower our kids to navigate the digital world securely and responsibly.

9. Overlooking The Importance of Open Communication

The absolute best tool you have when it comes to social media safety is open communication. Talk to your kids about their online experiences and share your own. Make sure they know they can come to you with any concerns. Kids need to feel that their parents are approachable and understanding, rather than judgmental or dismissive. Acknowledging that the online world is a significant part of their social interaction and learning can help parents connect with their children and provide guidance.

Regular check-ins keep the lines of communication open, ensuring that children know they can discuss anything on their minds.

Tips for Appropriate Social Media Use as a Parent

Monitor Their Social Media Channels

Keep an eye on your child's social media so you can monitor their online behavior and the content they're exposed to or sharing. This isn't about invading their privacy, which many kids (especially teens) may think; rather, it's a way to keep them safe online. Explain this to your child ahead of time and include them in the conversation. This approach encourages accountability and open, ongoing dialogue which is crucial. It also provides an opportunity to discuss the content they view and share online in an open and emotionally supportive way.

Avoid Posting Photos That Could Be Embarrassing or Inappropriate

As a parent, we have to be mindful of the photos and information we share about our children on social media. Before posting, consider how the content might affect your child now and in the future. Embarrassing or inappropriate photos can lead to teasing, bullying, or unwanted attention. Consider how you would feel if someone were to post pictures of you online without your consent, and extend the same courtesy to your children. Their little diaper butts or their first bath might be super cute, but if you wouldn't share a photo of yourself in your underwear or in the tub, think twice about doing it with a photo of your kid.

Your baby or toddler won't be able to provide consent to have their photos shared online, so use good judgment when choosing what to share and who you share it with. As kids get older, even by the age of 5 or 6, they should be able to tell you if they are comfortable having a photo or story shared online.

Communicate Your Expectations to Family Members

It's important to set clear expectations with family members about what is and isn’t acceptable to share online when it comes to your family and your children. Have a discussion with grandparents and loved ones about the types of photos and information that are off-limits for posting. This conversation requires you to set boundaries with family members, which can sometimes be uncomfortable. Here are a few things you can say to help communicate your wishes:

  • "We're selective with what we share online. If you have a photo you want to share that includes our child, please ask first."
  • "We don't share photos of our kids online, and we appreciate you respecting this important value."
  • "We're teaching our kids about consent. If you want to share a photo of them on your social media, ask them first so you can be sure they're comfortable with it."

Educate Your Kids About Social Media Safety

Educate your children about the potential risks and responsibilities of social media use. Discuss things such as privacy settings, the importance of thinking before posting, and how to interact safely and respectfully online. Encourage your kids to come to you with any questions or concerns about something they’ve encountered online, ensuring they understand that you’re a source of support and guidance.

These conversations should be ongoing and should change and adapt to your child’s age and maturity level. As they get older and their online presence evolves, the challenges and opportunities they encounter will change, too. Keep the dialogue open and current so your children are equipped with the knowledge and skills they need to navigate the online world confidently and safely.

Delay Social Media Use by Offering Alternative Devices Early

One effective way to manage your child’s screen time and social media use is by providing alternative devices for connection and communication early on. Parents know how early kids these days start asking for phones, and giving kids that connection can initially seem positive. However, studies continue to show that delaying social media and smartphone usage avoids major risks and issues for kids later on.

One great alternative for families to consider might be a safe starter phone. Some of the most common and effective options include:

  • A “flip phone” or “dumb phone” with no internet
  • An old iPhone with parental controls
  • A kids smart watch

Kids smart watches in particular have emerged as one of the most popular options for parents that combine the best of safe connection features (call, text, gps tracking, etc.) with kid-friendly design and use. This type of device allows children to stay connected with calls and messages without the distractions and potential risks of social media. It’s a great way to introduce technology to younger children in a controlled and safe manner.




Looking for a safer way to stay connected with your child?

If starting smart with technology is on your mind, COSMO can help! Our JrTrack Kids Smart Watch is an award winning solution trusted by thousands of parents nationwide to keep kids safe and connected one step at a time. 

JrTrack includes all the connection and safety essentials kids need in their first device, without any other stuff like social media or open internet browsing.

  • Stay connected with unlimited talk, text, and data
  • Stay safe with parental controls and contact approvals
  • Stay in the know with GPS tracking and SafeZone alerts
  • Stay protected with COSMO’s SafeCore system so your child can always call for help
  • Stay active with JrTrack’s activity tracker and step goal features

Want to learn more? You can give JrTrack a try risk free here!

The Cosmo Smartwatch also comes with features designed for safety and peace of mind, such as GPS tracking and SOS alerts. By offering this alternative, your can encourage more active and outdoor play, while still providing a way for your children to communicate with you.