Are parents harming kids by posting pics online?

Tiger and pumpkin Halloween kid pic
The first Halloween for my kids together.

What do you think the long term outcome will be for parents posting every moment of their kids’ lives on social media?

I’m not pointing fingers, because yes, I was guilty of this myself.

Do you remember when once a year relatives or close friends would come over and the slide projector and screen would come out? Or, when you sat with a bowl of popcorn on the carpet with the cousins at your grandparents house watching old slides of your parents?

For decades parents have loved to photograph their kids. That’s because our kids are the most gorgeous and special human beings on the planet. Even Lucy took lots of photos of Little Ricky. There’s an episode about that.

I took tons of photos of my kids when they were babies and toddlers. I took less and less as they got older until our phones got cameras. I was guilty of taking photos whenever I could. And posting them on Facebook. Now, I don’t take as many photos of my kids, because when we’re together, I just want to be with them in the moment. And I’m not as active on Facebook, either.

I wrote the following post six years ago wondering what would happen when parents post photos of their kids all the time. Well, six years later, we’ve seen plenty of negative things. Some positive, too. Did we have “influencers” six years ago? When you read the excerpts of the articles I included, please remember they are dated. But they were already seeing issues.

Post from October 2015:

First Christmas photo shoot with a real photographer for my baby girl.
First Christmas photo shoot with a real photographer for my baby girl. ‘Kat in the Hat.”

Thank goodness we didn’t have Facebook when my kids were young. We barely had internet. We had a modem and I could send files of work to a printer. There was no way to share every minute detail and selfie of our day. Instead, I took my film downtown to the photo shop that made double prints. Then I wrote a card or letter by hand to my mom or dad and inserted the photos and mailed them the old fashioned way. Here’s the end result of my old fashioned film and camera. A closet with shelves filled with photo albums.

Stacks of photo albums in a closet
A few of my photo albums, filled with real live pictures.

My fear is that we are raising kids who think they are more self-important than they really are. Their every move is recorded and shared with the world. As they grow older and have their own Instagram, Snapchat etc. will they try harder and harder to get noticed? Will the photos get more outrageous and provocative? Look at me????

Christmas photo shoot 1996.
Christmas photo shoot 1996.

I’ve been reading articles about this phenomenon. Here’s a related article I wrote on whether or not our kids get too much glory. Following are some excerpts and links from CNN and US News. Some report skyrocketing anxiety and depression as a result of too much social media.

“The 2014 National College Health Assessment, a survey of nearly 80,000 college students throughout the United States, found that 54% of students reported experiencing overwhelming anxiety in the past 12 months and that 32.6% “felt so depressed that it was difficult to function” during the same period. The study also found that 6.4% had “intentionally, cut, burned, bruised or otherwise injured” themselves, that 8.1% had seriously considered suicide and that 1.3% had attempted suicide.

Ease up on the pressure. Do we really have to be noticed all the time? Does every second have to be a beauty contest? Our kids need to stop feeling that they have to outperform their peers every minute of every day. They need to know that they don’t have to market themselves constantly, and that social media can be a mechanism for fostering collaborative relationships — not a medium for fueling competition, aggression and irresponsible behavior that contributes to anxiety and depression.” More from CNN here.

Here’s another article with an interesting point of view on selfies and a teen’s self worth. Read more from US News here.

“Social media use can turn into a problem when a teen’s sense of self worth relies on peer approval, Proost says. Whether they’re posting from the football game bleachers or on a family vacation, teens can access social media anywhere and at all times. And because of the constant connection, it can be dangerous for young people overly concerned with others’ opinions. They may feel like they can never escape the social environment and are constantly faced with peer pressure.

“The mental health outcomes that we’re starting to look at now are things like body dysmorphic disorder, obsessive compulsive disorder, depression and anxiety,” Proost says. “We are starting to see those things creep up and be related conditions to excessive [social media] use.”

If we know an overuse of social media can be fun, but also have consequences that negatively impact our children—why are we leading and feeding them down this road? 

Don’t get me wrong. I love FB. I’m learning Instagram. I LOVE that I’ve reconnected with friends and family and get to share in their lives. I say to keep an eye out for when it gets out of hand.

What are your thoughts on a generation of kids whose every move has been recorded and shared? Do you think moms should post photos of their kids all the time on social media? Do you think that has an effect on the children’s social media habits?

Do you lose sleep over your adult kids?

blond brother and sister with yellow lab

My kids with Angus more than 10 years ago. When they were young and I worried about other things.

A little over a year ago, I wrote this post. It was during the lockdown and I was in high amped worry mode. I was extremely anxious about my daughter who was laid off and was frustrated because her unemployment was on hold — along with 1.5 million other Californians who were lost in the system. She wrote to her assemblywomen, senators, governor, etc. but nobody helped. She’d call everyday to the EDD and nobody answered the phone. They had an 8 a.m. to noon window where they would accept calls. The one time she got through, the person said they were hired to answer the phone but couldn’t access the system. To this day she is still owed thousands of dollars from 2020. I’m going off track, but here’s what I wrote  in October 2020: I read a fascinating story that said “Study Confirms That Parents Still Lose Sleep Worrying About Their Adult Children.” I am definitely on of those parents who loses sleep and I know my dear friend Gabby, who shared this story on Facebook is one, also.
Even before our children are born, we worry about them. We’re relieved when we count the 10 fingers and 10 toes in the hospital, but we still worry. We’re relieved when they do well on their tests in school and make the team, but we still worry. We worry about safety, about their grades, about what they’ll do for a career, about who they’ll one day marry or if they’ll get married at all. The list of things to worry about feels endless. We hope that our worries will ease as our children get older, but it turns out that’s not the case.
Brother and sister staring at eachother

A photo from our beach vacation two years ago.

Can you relate to this as a parent, too? On my current list of worries is the bad air quality from California fires, my kids driving through the Cyclone Bomb weather, which is a rare event with high winds, rain and even snow, plus their general safety living in the Bay Area. I worry that they are secure in their careers and find their work satisfying and are able to make a living. Here’s more from the story about parents who worry about adult kids:
A recent study conducted by Amber J. Seidel of Pennsylvania State University confirms what many parents already know – you never stop worrying about your children. Her study went on to show that parents actually lose sleep worrying about their adult children. Parents, it looks like we’ll be worrying forever. If your children are already adults, you may already know that to be true. In Seidel’s study, 186 heterosexual married couples with adult children were surveyed. On a scale of 1 to 8, they were asked how much assistance they offer their children. Assistance could include financial, emotional or even chatting on the phone. Choosing 1 meant daily assistance and interaction where 8 was only once a year. The parents were also asked to choose from 1 to 5 regarding stress. In this case, choosing 1 meant no stress, and 5 meant the maximum amount of stress. The third thing these parents tracked was how much sleep they got at night. Moms got an average of 6.66 hours and dads got slightly more with an average of 6.69 hours. The results were not the same for moms and dads. For moms, it didn’t matter if they were the ones offering assistance or if their husbands were the ones offering assistance; moms were stressed out and sleeping less either way. Dads showed a lack of sleep and more stress only when they were the ones offering assistance to their adult children. If their wife offered assistance, it didn’t affect them. This either means that dads are not affected in the same way as moms or that the wives weren’t telling their husbands about the assistance causing the dads to be stress free due to lack of knowledge about the situation.
I found it interesting that the dads didn’t lose sleep if their wives were the ones offering support. Or, like the article said, maybe they weren’t aware of what was going on. But the moms lost sleep regardless who was the main person offering support to their kids. Do you worry about your children too, regardless of their age? What do you worry about most?
brother and sister back to back with pug

A more recent photo in our old back yard with Waffles the pug.

What do techies know that we don’t?

The post I wrote yesterday about how our brains are being flooded with dopamine and how social media and screens are negatively affecting our health, reminded me of a blog post I wrote a few years ago about how the high tech geniuses in the Silicon Valley won’t allow their children to have any screen time at all. Zero. They obviously know something they aren’t telling the rest of us.

brother and sister showing off super powers
Robert and Kat showing off their super powers way before social media.

Here’s what I wrote about Silicon Valley parents a few years ago:

Talk about hypocrites. I read the strangest story about parents who live in the Silicon Valley. They refuse to let their kids see or touch iPhones or any screens of any nature. These are parents who work in the high tech world and themselves use the devices. While they are at work, they hire nannies to shield their kids from the heinous devices they work to create.

Then to even go further, they make nannies sign contracts that they will keep them away from screens. They also hire spies to snoop on their nannies at parks to make sure they don’t cheat and check their phones. Maybe it’s because they understand how miserable the phones are making their lives, that they want to keep their kids’ lives free from tech. Or maybe they know something we don’t about how unhealthy these screens are.

Here are a few excerpts from the article I read in sfgate called Silicon Valley Nannies are Phone Police for Kids:

SAN FRANCISCO — Silicon Valley parents are increasingly obsessed with keeping their children away from screens. Even a little screen time can be so deeply addictive, some parents believe, that it’s best if a child neither touches nor sees any of these glittering rectangles. These particular parents, after all, deeply understand their allure.

But it’s very hard for a working adult in the 21st century to live at home without looking at a phone. And so, as with many aspirations and ideals, it’s easier to hire someone to do this.

Enter the Silicon Valley nanny, who each day returns to the time before screens.

“Usually a day consists of me being allowed to take them to the park, introduce them to card games,” Jordin Altmann, 24, a nanny in San Jose, said of her charges. “Board games are huge.”

“Almost every parent I work for is very strong about the child not having any technical experience at all,” Altmann said. “In the last two years, it’s become a very big deal.”

From Cupertino to San Francisco, a growing consensus has emerged that screen time is bad for kids. It follows that these parents are now asking nannies to keep phones, tablets, computers and TVs off and hidden at all times. Some are even producing no-phone contracts, which guarantee zero unauthorized screen exposure, for their nannies to sign.

The fear of screens has reached the level of panic in Silicon Valley. Vigilantes now post photos to parenting message boards of possible nannies using cellphones near children. Which is to say, the very people building these glowing hyper-stimulating portals have become increasingly terrified of them. And it has put their nannies in a strange position.

“In the last year everything has changed,” said Shannon Zimmerman, a nanny in San Jose who works for families that ban screen time. “Parents are now much more aware of the tech they’re giving their kids. Now it’s like, ‘Oh no, reel it back, reel it back.’ Now the parents will say ‘No screen time at all.’”

The bright side is these parents do care about their kids. They want what is best for them. I wonder if they use their electronics while they are at home? Do they put away the iphones at dinner? Do the parents realize that their kids will model their behavior and learn most from what they do, not what they say?

brother and sister playing cowboy
My cowboys using their imaginations.

Do you think the Silicon Valley parents have known all along how dangerous and addictive screen time is? Or, is it a personal choice not to let their kids on screens? Are they wanting their kids to have the idealized life before computers? Do you or did you limit screen time for your kids?

You’re only as happy as your least happy child…

I got a call from my daughter today who was extremely upset. It tears at my heart. I don’t think our kids truly understand how our hearts hurt when they they are suffering. The call reminded me that I wrote about this years ago when my son was close to finishing his college years and was going through a rough time.

Now it’s my daughter’s turn. I hope I was helpful on the phone. I hope she gets through this period of her life where she’s facing hurdles. All I can do is listen. Hopefully, it’s enough that she knows I love her.

IMG_2339
My kids not wanting me to take their pic.

This is what I wrote five years ago:

“You’re only as happy as your least happy child.” I heard a friend say this recently. I do believe it’s true. When you see your kids happy, you’re happy, too. When they are smiling and proud of their accomplishments or in love, we feel thrilled for them.

On the flip side, when they’re struggling, we have an ache in our hearts.

My son had a horrific last week of college, but managed to get through it alive. I got several phone calls where he wasn’t sure if he’d make it. He had five papers to write, plus finals, and I doubt he slept much.

I kept telling him using a swim race analogy, “You’re under the flags. Keep going. You can do it.”

I also received relieved phone calls as each hurdle was overcome. Today, he’s coming home for a brief stop before he starts his new life. I’m a worrier and I’m wondering how is he sleeping? How is he going to drive a U-Haul trailer with his worldly possessions up to his new life? How will he survive on his own?

IMG_1895
The city pool where my kids swam club and I swim masters.

My daughter was home for a week and it was a pure joy for me. She got me out of bed at 4:50 a.m. and drove me to swim practice. I loved the beauty of the early morning and the shifting lights in the water as the sun rose. By the time we were done, I felt elated. It wasn’t even 7 a.m. and I felt like I had accomplished so much. I hope to continue on with the early morning practices, although I must admit I’m back to my noon routine today. At least I’m going. Right?

Besides swimming, we hiked at the Tram, went shopping, got pedicures, went out to lunch and hung out together. The constant activity was different than my normal quiet writing days.

IMG_2623
Hiking on Mt.San Jacinto, PS Tramway.

I love having my kids home. But, I’m proud they have their own lives and are ready to take on the world without me.

P.S. On the last morning, my daughter, husband and I took a walk. We noticed we had company. Olive the cat followed quietly a few feet behind us. We’d stop to look at her and she’d look the other way. Finally, we stopped several blocks away to admire an apricot standard poodle. Olive decided that was enough. She stopped for good. When we returned home, several miles later, Olive was nowhere to be found. I retraced our steps and called “Here kitty, kitty.” She leaped out of the bushes across the street from where we saw the poodle. She was terrified and confused. She wouldn’t let me touch her but after one pitiful “meow” she followed me. When she finally recognized our neighborhood, her tail went up and she jetted all the way to our house leaving me behind.

IMG_2592
Olive the cat.

What are your thoughts about “You’re only as happy as your least happy child?” Do you think it’s true? Have you experienced sadness because your child is upset or unhappy?

Do I remember how to parent?

Young blond  boy on pony
My son loved to ride the “Snow White Pony” as he called it at our weekly street fair.

I’m talking about hands on parenting. My kids are in their 20s and I haven’t been hands on for years. My son is having shoulder surgery this week and he wants me to take care of him. I leave on Wednesday to be there prior to his Thursday morning surgery. I’ll be staying in an airbnb a few blocks from his apartment so i don’t have to drive. I don’t drive in the Bay Area, period.

He called me this morning and I told him, “I hope I’m helpful.” I haven’t had to take care of anyone since my husband last had shoulder surgery about three years ago and before that when my dad had shoulder surgery in 2014. I guess I do have experience with shoulder patients, though.

My time will mostly be filling the machine with ice that circulates coolness around his shoulder. And giving him meds on a schedule.

I’m a little nervous to travel back to California during this Delta variant thing. I fear they’ll shut down while I’m there! I know I’ll be required to wear masks again after not wearing them since my second shot here in Arizona.

The sweet thing is my son facetimed me the other day. He got his hair cut short and died it blond. He said he wanted to look just as he did when I was doing the full on parenting.

Three year old blond son
My son age three.

I’ll pack a few books, read my fellow bloggers and hang out with him. It doesn’t sound too hard, right? We will see.

Have you taken care of adult children recently? Did your parenting nurturing nature suddenly reappear?

The art of procrastination

cat upside down
Olive.

There are certain tasks I’ve been meaning to do. But I keep putting them off. I’m asking myself why and this morning I’m trying to tackle a few of them before the day gets away from me. Number one, we’re going out of town and I need to find a place to board Olive.

The closer the day of vacation approaches, the more I hesitate. I’m afraid I’m already too late and the “pet resorts” will be booked. I also know that Olive will hate being boarded, but we have to do it for her own good. Plus, I know my husband will be annoyed with the cost and push me to try to find something with a lower cost or demand a discount. Lots of reasons to not pick up the phone.

Another thing I’m procrastinating about is a recall on our car. The notice came in the mail and I just don’t know when it’s a good time to schedule the appointment. I finally called first thing this morning and got voice mail. We also have to get the car fixed after the hail damage. We filed a claim and talked to our agent. They are supposed to get back to us, but they are overwhelmed with claims. Our friends who live in Prescott, at the center of the storm, had a damaged roof, broken windows at their house and found four dead dear in the backyard.

Will we get all of this done on the car before vacation? Or should we wait?

I’m procrastinating on making some phone calls for a couple of interviews I need to do for stories that were suggested for me to write. I’m now procrastinating on writing. Why is that? Do I want to write the stories? Or not?

Live now. Procrastinate later. sign on bookshelf.
A sign I have on my bookshelf in my office.

My son was a master procrastinator in high school. His college applications were pure torture. I hated the whole process. He’d sit for days in front of his computer and get nothing done until right before they were due. He put off a one-semester Health class until the final semester of high school. It was online. I got a phone call Memorial Weekend that he wasn’t going to be allowed to “walk” because he never completed the course. I told the counselor that he had been named Valedictorian and was giving a speech.

“That is odd,” she said.”We’ve never encountered this before.”

They agreed to unlock the entire class and let him finish it that weekend, so he could graduate and be on stage to give his speech. Apparently, they only unlocked one unit of the class at a time, and he had to hunt down the teacher when he was ready for another unit, which was a hassle, he said.

I’m shaking my head at the memory. But at least he came by his procratsination honestly.

Do you have issues with procrastination? On what types of things? Any tips to overcome procrastination?

My valedictorian son giving speech.
My son during his graduation speech.

The Case Against Parenting Advice

Mother with young son at the beach.
Back in the day when I believed I was a great parent.

I used to be big on giving parenting advice. I’d talk to newer parents on the pool deck and give them advice about swim parenting. I had after all learned from great parents with older swimmers. Lots of advice gets handed out in the stands — like what to feed your kids between prelims and finals and how to start the college recruiting process.

My advice around the pool deck morphed into a weekly column of sports parenting advice. You can read my five years of articles here. But then the COVID year hit and I no longer believe I have anything valuable to share. OR the right to give advice.

My daughter had a very tough year with being laid off and struggling with anxiety and depression while sheltering in isolation. I looked on without knowing how to help. For a month or two she didn’t want to talk to me and I’d learn how she was doing from my husband or my son. It was beyond hard. When that passed and she texted me, I was so grateful. But, I learned from her lots of things that I’d done as a parent that was awful and wrong. I think I overlooked signs of her anxiety and depression for years. Why on earth would anyone want to take advice from me? Maybe I can share what not to do. If anyone wants to listen.

This hard, hard year makes me understand that most parents don’t want to hear advice from anyone. I know I never liked unsolicited advice from well-meaning parents. We’re all winging it and it’s a job that doesn’t necessarily get easier as our kids get older. We’re trying to do the best we can.

Mother with baby girl.
Me and my baby girl.

What are your thoughts about parenting advice?