Health and wellbeing blogs

Benefits and challenges of social media use and parenting

This Perinatal Anxiety and Depression Awareness Week St John of God Raphael Services Clinical Lead Psychiatrist Dr Zara Zia weighs up the pros and cons of using social media for new parents.

 Mum and social media

Social media is a daily part of life for many of us. For new parents it is often used as a ‘highlights reel’ of their new lives with their baby. It can also be a way to make connections and find a sense of community that can sometimes feel absent during this time of transition.

Social media for social support

For parents who are geographically or socially isolated, social media can provide a sense of connectedness, particularly for those living in more rural areas where face-to-face support groups may be few and far between.

There are social media groups that cover a range of different parenting and pregnancy related topics such as fertility challenges, medical concerns (both for mums, dads and baby), infant development and multiple births to name a few.

These groups connect parents who are in similar circumstances allowing them to share experiences, recommendations and support.

The challenge

It can be hard to find the balance between positive screen time and excessive use. Whilst social media has the potential to reduce isolation, unrealistic images of a seemingly ‘perfect’ life on social media can lead to mothers making comparisons to their own lives and being left with a sense of inadequacy.

Carefully selected, filtered photos, shared on social media may perpetuate the concept of a ‘perfect’ parent and create unrealistic expectations of parenthood and not reflect any of the more challenging moments of parenting.

This skewed view on parenthood can make it difficult for parents to share their own experiences. It is important to remember that social media provides only a glimpse into a person’s life and not the full picture.

Social media may provide access to resources for parents on infant development, pages for activities to engage children in and peer support.

We know the importance of parents actively engaging with their infants, smiling and playing with them - social media may pose a distraction at times, depending on the frequency of use and how heavily immersed in social media use the parents are.

Being mindful of this can help parents balance the use of social media in day to day life so it not does impact their relationships in a negative way and they still receive the benefits of online engagement.

Finding the balance

There are many factors that contribute to a parent developing perinatal anxiety and depression. We know that social media use is adding to the sense of pressure many new parents feel at a time when they are already experiencing exhaustion, feelings of isolation, and the burden of expectations (of themselves and from others) and this can be detrimental to their mental health.

The benefits versus the challenges of social media depend, in part, on what underlying messages each parent is exposed to during their social media use. We need to better understand each individual’s level of social media engagement, personal experiences and emotional responses in order to contextualise the role of social media in their lives.

Social media use is very common and having a balanced approach to this is important given the level of engagement many parents have with this platform.

Focusing on promoting perinatal and infant mental health services, resources, knowledge and awareness through social media is likely to promote positive outcomes for families.

We are already seeing an emergence of parents connecting over their shared difficulties, as well as their joys, instead of only striving for a picture of perfection.

Hopefully this will lead to open discussions about the more challenging aspects of adjusting to parenthood and reduce stigma for those suffering from perinatal anxiety and depression.

Helplines

PANDA (Monday to Friday: 9.00am to 7.30pm AEST)
Tel: 1300 726 306

Beyondblue (24 hours / 7 days a week)
Tel: 1300 224 636

Mensline (24 hours / 7 days a week)
Tel: 1300 789 978

Dr Zara Zia Clinical Lead Psychiatrist

About the Author

Zara is the Clinical Lead Psychiatrist at Berwick Raphael Services, St John of God Social Outreach. Zara has a strong passion for working collaboratively with families in a holistic manner during the perinatal period. This includes promoting psychological, social and emotional wellbeing from pre-conception family planning, through to pregnancy and the postnatal period. Zara feels privileged to work with families during this joyous, yet often vulnerable and challenging time. She has experience working in a range of perinatal and infant mental health settings including inpatient, outpatient and consultation liaison services. She works with a dedicated multidisciplinary team that strives to provide excellent care to families in a safe and welcoming environment.