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Abu Dhabi, UAEThursday 18 October 2018

Boasting parents driving social media anxiety, survey finds

Half of parents surveyed say social media creates unrealistic and unattainable expectations of parenting

Half of parents surveyed said social media created unrealistic and unattainable expectations of parenting, contributing to their own anxiety. EPA
Half of parents surveyed said social media created unrealistic and unattainable expectations of parenting, contributing to their own anxiety. EPA

Social media is piling pressure on parents to be the perfect mum or dad, a survey has revealed.

The survey by The Priory Clinic of more than 1,000 parents children under-18 looked at the impact of social media on family life.

Clinicians from the Dubai centre asked parents if linking up with others on Facebook and Instagram made them happier.

Half of those asked told the survey that social media created unrealistic and unattainable expectations of parenting and contributed to their anxiety.

Up to a quarter of respondents said reading other parental posts made them feel depressed.

“While extremely worrying, these latest findings come as no surprise,” said Dr Rasha Bassim, a psychiatrist at the Priory Dubai. “In today’s society, the social media influence on many new parents starts from the moment they carry out a positive pregnancy test.

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“From finding out the gender of their baby and planning a baby shower to creating an idealistic birth plan, social media is awash with posts depicting and normalising unrealistic expectations of motherhood.”

More than one in five parents (22 per cent) said happy family pictures on Instagram or baby blog posts on Facebook and other sites made them feel inadequate.

Up to 40 per cent of parents said idealised images of parenthood made new parents anxious, while more than a third (36 per cent) accused baby bloggers and mothers on Instagram of contributing to depression by making others feel inadequate.

Counsellors said social media had taken proud parenting to new levels.

Baby boasting and posting online about a child’s achievements have become as routine as breastfeeding and nappy changing, the experts said.

An attachment to mobile devices and social media has made it hard for some parents to avoid the filtered parenting success of others.

“About one in five women have mental health problems during pregnancy or in the first year after birth,” Dr Bassim said.

“Depression and anxiety in particular are extremely common and can cause significant suffering if left untreated.

“While the ‘baby blues’ tend to last for just a couple of weeks, post-natal depression is far more intense and debilitating.

“So, considering the major life changes pregnancy and motherhood entails, not forgetting the accompanying rollercoaster of emotions, social media presents a real danger of compounding and exacerbating what can already be an extremely anxious, stressful and exhausting time.”