I must admit, I have a love/strongly dislike relationship
with social media. I love being in touch with old friends. I love seeing cute
pictures of little ones, vacations and families. I love a funny
status update. And I really love when a funny status update inspires a bunch of
I also love information sharing. I have some incredible friends who know a lot of stuff about things like nutrition,
alternative medicine, psychology and various other topics that I genuinely enjoy
reading about. I learn a lot from my friends.
But I strongly dislike the arguments that seem to erupt
in moments when ideas clash. I also dislike the feeling that people sometimes
seem to look for reasons to correct or judge others.
Not long ago, I snapped a cute picture of my daughter when I
caught her reading the first paragraph of "To
Kill A Mockingbird." She was so proud to be able to read one of my books on
her own. I posted it but then thought twice. Even though she only read the first paragraph, I could practically hear the screams of "inappropriate content"
coming through my screen.
So I saved it just for me. I mean, who has time for
I must have gazed at the Ryan
Reynolds baby carrier picture that practically broke the Internet 30 times without seeing the problem that people really felt the need to highlight
all over social media. I don't know Ryan Reynolds, and I doubt I'll ever meet
him, but he seems like a nice guy in interviews and, if I'm being honest, I'm a
sucker for a picture of a new dad with a baby in a carrier. I can't help it. My
babies are getting very big and pictures like that bring me back to the days of my husband
carrying them on his chest. Sigh.
But Ryan made a mistake, and the Internet decided to make him
an example of a crucial parenting fail. Was it really necessary? No. Is Ryan
Reynolds allowed to make mistakes as he navigates his way through this
parenting gig? I certainly hope so.
I might have forgotten my manners at times or attended a party when I was supposed to be at the library. Oops. I'm glad those private Facebook groups didn't exist in the good old days.
Ryan is not alone. Google "celebrity parenting mistakes," and
you'll find plenty of famous people breaking the rules and being raked over the
coals for it. Evidently if you're famous, you can't make any parenting mistakes.
The point is that people like to pounce on the mistakes
others make, and that makes social media (and the Internet in general) an unpleasant place.
Not long after that picture made the rounds, I encountered
three different threads on Facebook that included harsh, judgmental and
downright angry statements between moms about, you guessed it, vaccines. These
debates weren't healthy or productive. They were venomous, hateful and fueled
by a need to be "right." These threads occurred on the timelines of people I
have known at various stages of my life. All of them are friendly and
supportive of others more often than not—until someone mentions vaccines.
Even if we move away from hot topics like vaccines, parents
attack one another for other reasons. Apparently private Facebook groups are
the new hotspot for reporting undesirable behavior seen in the
community—complete with pictures of the offending child. We all know that
nothing is ever private, right?
Any time I see something like that pop up in a private
group, I duck and cover. Kids make mistakes. They don't always follow the rules, and they push boundaries to see how it feels. Do they sometimes push too far? Yes.
Should that behavior be photographed and posted to a Facebook group with a
description of the event? No.
Raising kind kids starts from the top. Lead with empathy and kindness so that your kids learn to do the same.
I'm willing to bet that I sometimes drove too fast as a teen
or mingled with kids my mom didn't approve of. I might have forgotten my
manners at times or attended a party when I was supposed to be at the library.
Oops. I'm glad those private Facebook groups didn't exist in the good old days.
If we want to raise kids who are kind, compassionate,
empathic and use technology for good, we have to begin by keeping our own
digital actions in check. We have to stop feeding into the click-bait headlines
(because who really cares if Jessica Alba forgot to use a stroller shade one
day), stop criticizing people for their mistakes and stop judging and arguing
just because someone is doing this parenting thing in a different way. And
definitely don't judge every time a new parent (gasp!) makes a mistake.
We have to connect with our kids, our loved ones and our friends face-to-face and stop hiding behind status updates and comments. We have to embrace the concept of human error and allow others to do the same. We have to be kind, understanding and patient.
Raising kind kids starts from the top. Lead with empathy and
kindness so that your kids learn to do the same.
And Ryan Reynolds, wherever you are, I'm guilty of
forgetting things like hats and sunscreen. When my son learned to roll from
one end of the room to the other almost overnight, I went into a complete panic
looking everywhere for him, only to find him giggling under the bed. You're
doing just fine.