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Why Facebook parenting can backfire

By Kelly Wallace | 1/14/2015, 10:19 a.m.
Just about every day on Facebook, I see posts by parents asking for advice related to their children. Granted many ...

Just about every day on Facebook, I see posts by parents asking for advice related to their children. Granted many of my friends are parents, but I imagine you see similar posts when you log on as well.

And pretty much every time I read one, I wonder about the pluses and minuses of a world in which many parents now head to their social networks to make parenting decisions.

Sure, getting advice on how to get a toddler to sleep through the night or how to deal with a fussy eater makes sense and seems relatively harmless. But is there something creepy about picking a baby name based on Internet responses or deciding on a punishment based on the opinions of followers?

Last year, an expectant father created a website, NameMyDaughter.com, allowing anyone on the Internet to suggest and vote on a baby name for his daughter.

Thankfully for his child, who was born in April, he and his wife reportedly did not go with the winning name of "Cthulhu." Instead, they chose the second place name, Amelia.

My question: How is Amelia or any other child named by strangers online going to feel when they learn the origin of their name?

"I am sure the child will be happy to know that her name was approved of by thousands of strangers she will never meet," said Vicki Hoefle, author of the book "Duct Tape Parenting: A Less is More Approach to Raising Respectful, Responsible, and Resilient Kids."

"Can you imagine the outrage an adult would have if, say, a guy crowdsourced whether he should propose or not?" asked Hoefle, a mom of five who has spent the past two decades working with families on parenting.

Asking not just your followers, but random strangers to choose a name for your child is no doubt one of the more extreme examples of crowdsourced parenting, but what about deciding discipline based on social media responses or asking for help with deeply personal issues such as a child's depression or anxiety, or a case of bullying, or a child's exploration of sex?

In conversations over email with parents across the country, I found a real split in opinions about whether using social media to help parent is positive or inappropriate.

Put mom of four Janeane Davis in the positive camp. She said that since many of us live far away from our parents and friends, "social media crowdsourcing is a quick way of getting a lot of opinions and ideas at one time."

Davis, founder of the blog Janeane's World, said she only crowdsourced for her children once.

"I asked people how they got their sons to behave better at home and school. I did get some good ideas. I tried one of them and it worked," said Davis, who said she'd do it again.

Louise Sattler, a mom of two grown children in Los Angeles, also believes crowdsourced parenting is OK in certain cases.

"We use to call it getting advice during coffee klatches," said Sattler, a school psychologist, educational consultant and owner of a business providing sign language instruction.