More and more, I see people sharing information about parenting and child development through social media. I have been observing my response to this phenomenon and became curious as to why my reactions have been so passionate. Why is science so important to me? Why do I get so upset when I see others sharing cherry-picked information from what I believe to be unreliable sources? What does it matter if people share their opinions?
Parents are vulnerable. That is what my passion on this topic boils down to. I work with parents every single day who are full of self-doubt, fear, and anxiety about how they are parenting their children. This is especially true when it comes to the topic of parenting children around sleep. Much of this self-doubt stems from the fact that parents are inundated with information about what type of parent they should be or how what they are choosing could ruin their child’s development, health, or attachment. I have yet to find a parenting ideology rooted in the science behind attachment theory in developmental psychology. However, social media provides opportunities to share anecdotal information and support it with selected quotes or findings.
I do question these social media posts, because I am passionate about giving parents solid information rooted in science and quality literature. Many times, I get defensive remarks. These remarks either vehemently defend the stance of the person who posted it, often stating that the source is reliable. Or, the remarks focus on how biased science and research can be. It is true that not every researcher is being as ethical as he or she should be when data is being collected or coded. And, it is true that not everything gets funded for research. Research is flawed. There is no denying this. However, this is exactly why cherry-picked information can be so dangerous. Reports on findings can easily get misquoted on sites like Huffingpost or NPR, any site or blog for that matter. And, unless, we take a thorough look at the methodology of the study and/or read the study in its entirety, we miss knowing whether the findings are solid enough to apply. Not everyone has the interest or time to read a full peer-reviewed journal article. I am not insinuating that we should replace Facebook with academic readings. What is important to me is that when we share information about child development or parenting that we make certain it is accurate. Why? The price is too high not to consider how what we are sharing can affect parents and their children.
In my field of work, I see far too many children and parents who are sleep-deprived. I see parents who are so full of “information,” that they are not able to trust their own responses to their own child’s needs. Science is important to me, because I am passionate about child development and take my interactions with parents very seriously. When I share information with parents, I make sure what I am sharing is solid. If not, I am not doing my job in the manner that feels good to my heart.