If you’re anything like me, you belong to a number of group chats. In 2023, this is just another part of being a parent. My GroupMe includes chats for one kid’s track team, and another kid’s soccer team, a chat for each kid’s grade level, and a work chat. And those are just the chats that are active year-round and don’t include any seasonal sport ones. My phone buzzes and pings multiple times a day alerting me to everything from a rained-out practice to homework questions. I have a love/hate relationship with GroupMe; it can be a blessing and a curse. It’s a part of modern parenting though. If you’re not there yet, you will be. Here are some things to consider when you choose to become part of a group chat.
Beware of alarm fatigue.
Notifications go off constantly. If you’re unable to keep up with them in real-time, designate times (I check in at least once in the morning for any last-minute tidbits before school and again in the afternoon for any announcements regarding extracurricular activities) to get caught up. It can be easy to become desensitized to all the notifications, but then you run the risk of missing the memo that practice has been canceled or the reminder about dressing up as an old man for the 100th day of school.
Decide how much you want to bail the kids out.
In class groups particularly, there are daily examples of parents who mean well trying to help out their kids. There is at least one kid each day who forgets what homework is assigned or didn’t remember to bring home the spelling words. Parents post on the child’s behalf, and the phone starts buzzing. No judgment, but I have mixed feelings about this. Are we using modern convenience as a resource to help our kids? Or, are we making it too convenient? At some point, we have to teach responsibility. They have to learn to check and double-check the assignment board. They have to learn to pack their bags. We can’t teach them to rely on the safety net that is GroupMe. Not to mention, it’s more work for us as parents. I’d be lying if I said I’ve never done this for my kids, but it’s definitely something I’ve gotten away from. They either have to call a friend or take the loss and learn the hard way.
What about when we bail ourselves out?
I wholly understand the comfort we get from consulting our peers. I do it often. I do wonder though when we use group messages to crowdsource, are we forgetting to think for ourselves? If we didn’t have group chats, we’d still figure out what to wear to the gala on our own, and our outfits would likely be just fine. We use these groups as a safety net for ourselves just as much as we enable our children to use them. If I didn’t have GroupMe, I’d probably do a much better job of keeping track of the bake sale fliers and field trip forms. Again, I’m as guilty as anyone else, but I can’t help but think how much more responsible I’d be if I didn’t have GroupMe keeping me afloat.
Watch out for the gossip traps.
Misery loves company, and what begins as harmless opinion-seeking can easily escalate. All it takes is two parents with the same opinion to ignite the fire. It’s natural for us to want to find someone as upset as we are about that absurd math test question that definitely wasn’t covered in class. We want to feel validated. Still, there is a line we must not cross. Issues with teachers (or coaches or leaders) must be addressed with them directly—you’d want the same courtesy—and if necessary, escalated using the chain of command. Nowhere in that chain will you find “Consult other parents over GroupMe” as the next step. Nothing good can come from doing this on a public forum. And, just as we caution our kids about social media use, once it’s out there, there is no taking it back.
There are pros and cons to group chats, and regardless of any opinion I have, they are here to stay. I have too much FOMO to quit GroupMe, and I really would miss out on essential updates. Keeping the above points in mind helps keep me (and my fellow chat members) sane.