Selfie Life

What Does Posting Photos Of Our Kids Online Say About Us? A Lot, Apparently

The results of a new study show a link between sharing our kids’ photos on social media and permissive parenting. But maybe we just adore our kids.

Posting pictures of our kids is our digital shout-out. We love them!
EMILI_VISION/E+/Getty Images

Our generation is lucky to be able to easily keep track of friends from every part of our lives. We see each other post baby pictures on social media. We watch for the babies’ monthly milestone pics. Come the end of summer, our feeds are full of back-to-school shots. And we feel a million years old, but in a circle-of-life way, when our friends’ kids are dressed for junior prom. But interestingly, a new sociological study of parents who use social media concludes that this makes us confident though permissive parents.

My first thought, seeing the study from the University of Central Florida and Indiana University Bloomington, was guilt. Whoops, that’s me. I post pictures of my son and I let him game! But then I pulled back a minute. I mean, wouldn’t it be weirder, or at least more out of the culture, if I kept him hidden?

The study ties posting kids to social feeds with permissive parenting because, let’s face it, none of us yet understands the implications of having one’s life chronicled that way. We’ve got the first generation of kids growing up with their young faces viewable on other people’s cell phones and laptops. So the idea is, if we’re good with putting them out there, we’re probably okay with a lot of other things, too.

If that’s true, then 99 percent of my friends are permissive parents — and I’m just not sure that’s the case. While our generation does tend to nurture our kids’ feelings and we attempt to be sort of friends with them rather than distant disciplinarians, my same friends who post preschool pictures do set screentime guidelines (pandemic screentime aside) and don’t buy their kids cell phones in third grade.

Yet, when I thought more deeply, the one percent of my friends who never post their kids are, in fact, the same ones who don’t just control screentime but ban screens, who serve more carrot sticks than cookies, and who achieve a kind of slow, thoughtful parenting that I admit I am not cut out for.

Ultimately, as one of the lead researchers says, we’re still learning. Decades from now there will probably be contradicting studies, some saying that “permissive parents” made our kids self-conscious balls of anxiety by posting them, and others concluding that our kids were unaffected by their 6th birthday party appearing online. And what of the kids who never had starring roles on any feed? Will they be grateful, or asking WTF, why are there no pictures of me except on my parents’ probably by-then-defunct cell phones?

When asking yourself, “What does it say about me, that I want to post this picture of my kid?” I think the honest answer is, you love your child and want to share that with the world. But friends who don’t post pictures love their children too. So do all the people who post kids, but make their Instagram feeds private. We all love our kids and are doing what feels best. And whether you’re a Katy Perry who never shows their baby or a Cardi B who shares that cuteness with the world, or somewhere in between (aiming for Beyonce-like occasional reveals), you’re still a rockstar doing your best.