Forget Grandma: Today's Parents Turn to Social Media for Advice, Poll Finds
MONDAY, Nov. 20, 2023 (Healthday News) -- Expert advice and self-help books are officially passé: Social media is where nearly all new parents now go for guidance on potty training, sleep issues and toddler tantrums, a new poll shows.
Four in five turn to forums like TikTok and Facebook for tips on caring for young children, while nearly half rate social media as very useful for finding new parenting ideas to try, the University of Michigan Health C.S. Mott Children’s Hospital National Poll on Children’s Health showed.
But the poll's authors say new parents should take the advice they find with a grain of salt.
“Many parents turn to online communities to exchange advice or discuss parenting challenges because it may seem faster and easier than asking a health professional,” said Mott Poll Co-director Sarah Clark. “Finding parent comraderie in this space can have benefits, but parents should keep in mind that every family’s experience is different and not everything they hear online may be accurate or the right thing for their child.”
In the poll, most mothers and over two-thirds of fathers of children aged 4 and younger turned to social media for parenting advice or to share their experiences -- a significant increase from a 2015 Mott poll that explored similar questions.
What were the most pressing parenting topics? The most common discussions included toilet training (44%), kids’ sleep (42%) nutrition/breastfeeding (37%), discipline (37%), behavior problems (33%), vaccination (26%), daycare/preschool (24%) and getting along with other kids (21%).
Three-fifths of parents said they take to social media to talk about these topics because they want to hear the ideas of others, while one in four said it’s convenient or they want to do things differently than their parents.
More than a third of parents also said social media makes them feel less alone and helps them learn what not to do, while a quarter said it helps them decide whether to buy certain products.
One in ten parents of young children who use social media also described it as very useful in deciding when to take their child to the doctor.
But Clark noted that with young children, “it is usually prudent to contact the child’s primary care provider with any questions.”
Telehealth visits and messaging through patient portals, she added, are efficient ways for parents to ask for professional guidance.
Despite seeking out advice on social media in growing numbers, most parents identified at least one aspect of social media sharing that concerned them.
Nearly 80% felt other parents overshare by bragging about their child or sharing too often. Meanwhile, over 60% thought parents may give personal information that could identify the child’s location or embarrass the child later.
Nearly half also said they have seen parents post information that is false, while more than a quarter have noticed some parents sharing inappropriate photos of a child’s body.
“Parents acknowledge concerns related to sharing too much about their kids on social media,” Clark said in a university news release. “Families should consider whether their child may one day be embarrassed about having personal information shared without their consent; a good rule is if you have any doubt, don’t share it."
Another issue the poll raised is parents sharing information that is inaccurate, either knowingly or unknowingly.
That's even more problematic when considering this poll statistic: Two in five parents think it’s difficult to distinguish good versus bad advice on social media.
“There are so many decisions to make about the best way to care for children during the infant and toddler years, which can be an exciting and overwhelming time,” Clark said.
“Social media is a convenient way for parents to seek information about parenting challenges in real time, especially in between checkups," Clark said. "But it’s important that parents identify reputable sources of information about children’s health and parenting, and that they consult those sources before attempting new strategies with their own child.”
Visit the U.S. Department of Health and Human Services for more on parenting young children.
SOURCE: Michigan Medicine-University of Michigan, news release, Nov. 20, 2023