Mélanie Doucet and Richard Cadet are new parents who are active on social media.
Mélanie Doucet and Richard Cadet are new parents who are active on social media. It’s a great way to keep in touch with their friends or to get answers to questions about their baby girl. But did they manage to survive without it for a week?
Mélanie, mother to 5 month-old Maëlie, is a regular on social media. “It’s become automatic. I don’t broadcast my life on Facebook, but I do log on to see what’s going on. I also visit many maternity forums and blogs.” The young mother admits to checking her smartphone while she breastfeeds and even during mealtimes.
Like her, about 97% of Quebecers between the ages of 18 and 45 use social media. Richard, her partner, is also a frequent social media user. To give themselves a challenge, the couple accepted to turn off their phones, not use Facebook and not read any blogs for a week. “I thought it would be easy, but we hadn’t realized how often we use the technology,” says Richard, who checks social media several times a day. And, it would seem, so does the rest of his network. He’s noticed that people reply by text message or Facebook faster than by phone.
Connecting to reality
Cutting out social media, however, had a good effect on the family. “Richard works a lot,” says Mélanie. “Turning off our smartphones allowed us to talk more to each other during meals while Maëlie entertained herself on her highchair next to us.” “I feel it brought me closer to my daughter, and I played with her a lot more, too,” adds Richard.
The time you spend on social media may prevent you from spending quality moments with your child.
Linda Pagani, professor at Université de Montréal’s Department of Educational Psychology recommends that parents not use social media in front of their children. “Taking care of a child during maternity leave can make you feel very isolated,” she concedes. “Social media certainly helps relieve the isolation. But using them should not stop parents from giving their baby the attention she needs.” Especially since it’s very easy to lose track of time. “I often check social media for a very specific purpose, and suddenly realize a few minutes later, that I’m doing something else altogether,” notes Richard. Children don’t tend to appreciate this situation very much either. According to the American association Zero to Three, toddlers tend to behave poorly to get their parents’ attention when they are engrossed in their electronic devices.
To post or not to post pictures of your children?
A little over 80% of parents share photos of their children on social media. Is that a good thing? Martin Lessard, Web strategy and social media specialist, worries about the private lives of these youths. “They’ll be stuck with these pictures forever and we must admit we’re not giving them the choice. In a few years, face detection systems will make it easy to find these pictures on the Web.” He recommends that parents adjust their preferences to limit the outreach of these pictures of their children only to people close to them.
Useful despite it all
For many people, using social media is a way to relieve isolation and find information on child care and education. “I live in the suburbs, and my friends are in Montreal. Facebook helps me stay in touch with them,” says Mélanie. “However, when I send out an invitation and everyone is too busy, I feel the loneliness even more.”
There are other resources to meet your informational needs and to put you in contact with other parents. For example, you can:
join parent-child activities in your community
go to neighbourhood parks with your child
suggest outings with your friends
read specialized books and magazines on child rearing
call Info Santé or the Parent Help Line when you’re worried about your child’s health or behaviour
Conclusions after one week
Thanks to this challenge, the couple realized that they were spending far too much time on social media. For Richard, curbing the impulse to check social media was almost as hard as quitting smoking! “We’re still going to use it, but much less,” says Mélanie. And no more phones during mealtimes. By limiting her social media use, Mélanie also wants to set a good example for her daughter. “When she’s older, I don’t want her always stuck to a screen. I’d also like her to play outside!”