NASHVILLE, Tenn. (WKRN) — Social media accounts and podcasts focused on parenting have become increasingly popular, some with millions of followers.

News 2’s Hayley Wielgus spoke with some child development experts, who also run social media accounts, about how parents can be conscious consumers of online advice.

It’s long been said “it takes a village to raise a child,” but much of that village is now virtual.

“We are looking for other sources of gaining this parenting knowledge. And especially with the pandemic, when we were more socially isolated, I think parents in particular started turning more and more to the internet,” said Dr. Cara Goodwin.

Goodwin, a mom of soon-to-be four, wanted to share her professional knowledge and connect with other parents at a time when many of us were feeling disconnected. 

In 2020, she started an Instagram account called Parenting Translator.

“My goal with Parenting Translator is really to take all the research that’s out there, and translate it, meaning putting it into language that parents can understand. And to help parents understand, how does this translate to my everyday life? How can I use this to maybe make parenting a little bit easier?” she explained.

Goodwin has a PhD in child psychology, along with three other degrees in related fields, including a master’s from Vanderbilt.

Goodwin translates published research into layman’s terms and shares it on Instagram, her website, and her podcast.

She advises parents to look at credentials, not popularity, when seeking out information from online parenting accounts.

“The scary thing about social media is it’s kind of the ‘wild wild west’; there aren’t a lot of rules. You can create an account and call yourself a parenting expert.  A lot of times it’s based on how many followers you have versus your actual credentials,” said Goodwin.

“We live in a quick fix society. We think that there’s something like, if I just take this parenting advice, it’s going to solve our problems,” said Michelle Tangeman, LMFT and behavior analyst. “That’s an illusion, and it’s a trap. That’s not something that I want parents to subscribe to.”

Tangeman and education professor Erin O’Connor started the podcast “Parenting Understood,” during the pandemic to help parents avoid that quick fix trap.

“Parenting Understood was designed to be able to have these more robust conversations and talk about the nuances and talk about bigger picture things in parenting,” said Tangeman.

In the age of viral videos, certain parenting philosophies can suddenly become trendy, and other methods vilified, often without scientific evidence to back up the vitriol.

“Even on social media, there are clinicians that are speaking out against discipline techniques, for example, like timeout from positive reinforcement, and that can be confusing as a parent that doesn’t have a background in child development, psychology or education,” Tangeman said. “But the reality is that the evidence that supports timeout from positive reinforcement is substantial, and we know it to be effective when done appropriately. So, I think being critical consumers is really, really important when it comes to spending time or accessing information online.

Spending too much time accessing information online can lead to anxiety and intensify pressure to be a perfect parent.

“I think it’s important to remember that it’s impossible to be perfect,” Goodwin said. “Even if we could, it would be a huge disservice to our children, because they can’t be perfect. And they need to see us mess up, they need to see us be human, and we have to show them and teach them how to repair from our mistakes.

Parenting is a lifelong learning process and online advice is only one piece of the puzzle. To visit Dr. Goodwin’s website, click here.

Tangeman’s website can be found here.