How to survive the pain of the WhatsApp parent group
RENDEZVIEW: WhatsApp has become the domain of annoying overzealous parents, writes Darren Levin. If you want any sanity, the only solution is to delete the app. Just don't expect to be on top of any school demands.
OK, is it just me or is this maths homework, like, super easy, even for Grade 3? I'm sure even the kids in Uzbekistan are onto fractions by now.
What do you mean tomorrow is Grandparents and Special Friends Day? I thought that was Thursday. Wait, Thursday is Australia's Biggest Morning Tea?
Can anyone recommend a really good wart cream?
Welcome to the wonderful world of WhatsApp parenting, where mums and dads support each other, unknowingly shame each other, and overshare every intimate detail of their children's lives online.
I sometimes wonder how my parents kept me alive in the days before WhatsApp?
How did they know that Tuesday was cross country training, for example? Or that on Friday school would inexplicably end at midday?
Now there's a WhatsApp group to keep you abreast of absolutely everything - even things you didn't want to be abreast of like little Jaxson's intolerance to gluten or "can someone please recommend a tutor for Harlow, I feel he's falling behind in conversational Mandarin and applied mathematics?" Harlow is three.
You're probably wondering what's the harm in parents setting up support networks to help them navigate a school and social schedule that seems to get more complicated by the day.
But if a problem shared is a problem halved then on WhatsApp it's a problem exacerbated by stressed and panicked parents over-thinking their way through non-issues, collectively.
It's why I decided to delete WhatsApp this year as part of an overarching strategy to reconnect myself with the natural living world.
But schools these days use WhatsApp to communicate with parents, so this isn't really an option unless you want your kid to show up on Silly Hat Day wearing an ordinary hat with no levels of silliness whatsoever.
Group chats can very quickly turn toxic, too. Earlier this year, it emerged that bro groups on WhatsApp were circulating sex tapes featuring high profile rugby league players, in among Game Of Thrones spoilers and doggo memes.
While that's a pretty extreme example of WhatsApp's dark and insidious underbelly, it's not uncommon for an innocuous question about homework to snowball into a heated conversation about NAPLAN, STEM, or other things I wish parents would STFU about.
I'm pretty sure WhatsApp wasn't the launching pad for helicopter parenting, but there's no doubt it's enabled en masse micromanaging, shaming previously chill parents into thinking they don't fuss enough about their kids.
I've seen the way WhatsApp's pack mentality has encouraged infighting between parents and teachers being piled-on over the most trivial things.
In psychology it's called the "online disinhibition effect", where people don't exercise the same level of restraint on the internet as they do face-to-face.
But this behaviour has real world consequences, with schools reporting unprecedented levels of feedback from parents and, in more extreme cases, harassment and bullying.
"Please be advised that the volume of your communications is so great that it is no longer sustainable for the school to give it due consideration and respond to it all," a NSW principal wrote to parents earlier this year.
I'm not entirely sure whether WhatsApp is ground zero for this influx of "communications" and rising levels of parent intensity.
But it does make me yearn for the good old days when you communicated with parents in the eight-minute window at drop-offs and pick-ups, or read about Lavender Ribbon Day on a notice board that never, ever talked back.
Darren Levin is a columnist with RendezView.com.au