Question: What are some strategies to consider when navigating the world of social media as a respectful parent?
This is a very thoughtful question and one that more and more parents are asking these days. You are likely asking it now because something doesn’t feel right. I’m very sensitive to this dilemma and know, that by simply considering this issue, you are taking a thoughtful step on how to maneuver in these uncharted territories.
There are so many decisions we face, many of which we may not give even a second thought. What should I consider when taking photos or videos of my child? Should I share it and/or post it online? What details should I share about private moments with my baby? How does it affect my baby when my attention is distracted by social media?
Whenever I’m in doubt, I always start by asking, “What would Magda Gerber say?” Two of the RIE ® concepts, respect and raising an authentic child, come to mind when thinking about how to navigate the world of social media as a parent.
From Dear Parent by Magda Gerber:
We not only respect babies, we demonstrate our respect every time we interact with them. Respecting a child means treating even the youngest infant as a unique human being, not as an object.
An authentic child is one who feels secure, autonomous, competent, and connected.
When we help a child to feel secure, feel appreciated, feel that “somebody is deeply, truly interested in me,” by the way we just look, the way we just listen, we influence that child’s whole personality, the way that child sees life.
Face-to-face parental interaction is a critical part of toddler development. This is how our baby learns how to read our facial and bodily cues and recognize emotions.
When we are involved in an activity with our baby and turn our attention to our phones or interrupt the activity in order to take a photograph, we are not being present. The time we spend on our phone and on social media in our baby’s presence is time stolen away from our one-on-one social interaction with our baby.
Our baby is studying us and learning from us. We are modeling a behavior to our baby that presents our exchange with our phone as a priority over direct human interaction. Our baby will want to go on a phone too, having seen that it makes us happy and that it distracts our attention from the child.
Our goal is an authentic child. So, how authentic is it when we direct them from behind the camera to smile or pose or when we interrupt their focused playtime for a photograph?
That’s not to say that we shouldn’t take photos and videos of our children, but we should slow down and consider the manner in which we are doing so. Speak to your baby and include them in the process. I might say, “Hi Lucy, I see you are playing. I’m going to take a picture of you now.”
Respect Your Baby’s Privacy
Imagine what you would feel like if someone posted a picture of you with food all over your face without your permission. Or if they tweeted something silly you said for the entire world to read. Our babies grow up, and we are creating a digital footprint for them that may last the rest of their lives. Unlike an adult, or even a teenager, whose permission we would ask before we would post something about them online, our baby cannot give us permission to post her or his photo on social media. We are unknowingly violating our baby’s right to privacy.
Here are some things to think about…
Ask yourself, “How will what I do now affect my child 1 year, 10 years, 25 years from now?”
A child who is happily playing should not be interrupted to take photos.
Be authentic. Notice if you are directing your baby from behind the camera.
Slow down when making a decision to post anecdotes, photos, and videos online.
Ask yourself, “Why am I posting this? Am I looking for social approval, and am I using my baby to get it?”
Ask friends and family not to tag you or your baby when they post a photo, and not to post without permission if they make a regular practice of it.
If you find you get easily distracted by your phone when you are one-on-one with your baby, find solutions that help you focus. Ideas include placing your phone out of reach and adjusting your notification settings and sounds for all non-urgent matters.
The first three years of our child’s life are the most sensitive period for their brain development. The experiences the child has at that time affect their brain for the rest of their life, shape the architecture of their brain and builds the lifelong skills such as problem solving, communication, self control, relationship building that will allow them to survive and thrive within their family, community, work environment and culture.
One of Magda Gerber’s most well-known quotes is, “Do Less, Enjoy More.” Let us give our baby our selfless love and our undivided attention.
Lisa Chariff Better
RIE® Associate and RIE® Mentor teacher
RIE Associate Bio: Lisa Chariff Better (Miami, Florida) became a RIE® Associate in 2010. She observed her first RIE® Parent-Infant Guidance™ class in Los Angeles many years earlier and became a passionate advocate for Magda Gerber’s Educaring® Approach, Lisa attended The Pikler Institute Training in 2010-2013, as well as 2017-2018 in Budapest, where she studied under Anna Tardos. She is currently the RIE® Alliance Chairperson on the RIE Board. Lisa is a National Speaker, a RIE® Mentor Teacher, and a Pikler Pedagogue Candidate.
Lisa volunteers as a Guardian ad Litem in Miami Dade County, and was honored as Guardian ad Litem of the Year 2010, and Guardian ad Litem of the Year in her division for 2018. Lisa lives in Miami with her husband and is step-mother to 2 daughters and 3 grandchildren.
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