Super-advanced mobile devices make it so easy to take a photo and post it on Facebook immediately, or Tweet about what's happening in your child's life at any given moment. What is all this social networking and sharing (bragging?) doing to your child's development?
Does your child already have an image?
"81 percent of the world's children have an online presence before the age of 2," says Larry Bugen, psychologist and author of Stuck on Me... Missing You. "Four out of five children have a projected image before they have personally shaped an identity."
And you're the one shaping that image by posting to Facebook and Twitter about your child's accomplishments or writing blogs from the child's point of view. "What happens when these babies and toddlers grow up and Google themselves?" asks John Lee, L.C.S.W. and psychotherapist. Are you creating an undesirable online footprint for your child? Is he being judged or branded before he's even had a chance to prove himself?
"Children are continuously learning, growing and trying on different hats and interests," says Lee. "It's not fair for children to be stuck with labels they have no control over." The result? "Long-term effects of early labels could contribute to an inflated and narrow sense of self," he explains. In other words: potential narcissist.
Are you dooming your perfect child?
If your social networking sites display that your child is a genius, know that reinforcing positives can be just as damaging to self-esteem as reinforcing negatives. Parents don't often post about their child's mistakes or failures. This focus on perfection can lead to narcissism, self-absorption and socially maladjusted children, says Dr. John Mayer, a clinical psychologist.
Only acknowledging the perfect can also fuel depression and anxiety, which could result in your child isolating themselves and destroying their social skills. Instead of failure being a learning opportunity, it can feel like a profound loss or traumatic event for the perfect child, Lee explains. The narcissist, in their own mind, cannot fail.
Have you succumbed to social networking overload?
It's important to ask yourself if your own identity has taken a backseat to your child's. "Parents are living vicariously through their children rather than messaging about events and accomplishments in their own lives," says Mayer. "These parents often suffer from low self-esteem and lack of confidence in their own abilities, skills and intelligence."
It's your right as a parent to boast about your child and be proud of them, but think twice about the online presence you may inadvertently be creating for your child through social networking.