NBC News Today recently reported that a Gerber survey found 40 percent of moms aged 18 to 34 made social media accounts for their babies within the first year, and another seven percent created accounts for their children before they were two years old. It stands to reason that the next generation of parents who are comfortable having an on-line presence, are sharing photos of babies and young children, including sonogram images, in social media feeds. Baby photos are so commonplace there is an app to block baby photos on Facebook and Instagram for those who prefer to remain in a “baby blackout” mode.
For many parents, the decision to create a separate social media profile for their baby makes perfect sense, and still for others it makes no sense at all. It is personal decision on the part of the parent, and it is an important one that requires clarity of purpose and security for the child’s personhood. As more and more babies show up on-line with their own “baby book persona” created and managed by parents, many new parents may want to consider the pros and cons noted below for creating a separate profile for the baby.
Some of the reasons why parents choose to create a separate social media profile for their baby include:
• Keep baby stuff separate from your stuff – do not overwhelm others with your child’s pictures, and then only the people who truly want to follow your child’s development are in that network feed.
• Helps distant relatives stay connected to your child’s development – strengthening family bonds.
- Too much information. Over exposing your children to the opinions of other people, including family. A parent’s steady stream of photos may wear on even the most loving family members.
- Privacy concerns. Exposes your child to pedophiles and bullies – the privacy of personal data is a concern as the social media sites are not trustworthy guardians of keeping data secure. Privacy policies and settings change. They are dynamic and it is incumbent on the parent to be savvy and keep the settings secure.
- The risk of compromising your child’s autonomy by the digital footprints created by parents that haunt the adolescent.
- Unauthorized commercial use of baby images is always a possibility with social media sites seeking advertising revenues.
Criteria for posting baby photos
A recent NPR reported on a study regarding the posting off baby photos on line and identified posting considerations of the modern mom:
- Content –what is the photo displaying (purpose)
- Audience – deliver photos to a specific audience of family and friends who ask to see updates
- Frequency – how recently did I share the last picture?
- Convenience – ease of taking and posting the photos (hence social media apps are the most convenient)
Considerations for creating a social media profile for your baby
Parents have the power to create an on-line persona for their children and that is power that can be used wisely, or abused. It is important to maintain a healthy respect for the personhood of your child that is his to explore without the haunting of digital footprints you created for her in the cyber social realm. Photos you choose to display of their babyhood may not be okay for your child as an adolescent, for example. Every parent must make a decision about whether to do it, and how to go about it. Below are some considerations:
Who owns the profile? Social media is an extension of self, and the fact of the matter is that the parent is not the child. So it is critical that the parent is not confused in the least about who owns the account. If you are creating a social media account for your child, then what is your plan to transfer control to your child? How old will they be? How will you prepare him? Until that time, what are your boundaries as the parent about what is acceptable to post? When will your child have a say in that? What lessons about cyber-safe citizenship are you planning to teach your child in creating this profile?
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Relationship is not the same thing as a connection. Be clear that intimacy and genuine relationships is not the same thing as “connecting on line”. Children need to learn that trustworthy relationships are carefully nurtured off-line, and so having an on-line presence since babyhood needs to be carefully presented and managed to reflect this understanding. Having clear boundaries for how much personal data to post on line is imperative, and the more conservative you are with your child’s baby photos, the better.
Privacy and personal security. Establish a clear family policy about photo posting that includes who will have access and why, how often to post, the nature of the content, and that privacy settings including geo-location codes are not included in the post. Most devices are set with geo-locator services to be active, so it will be important to turn them off when taking pictures, and also be careful not to reveal information about where your child lives or spends time in the photos.
Baby photo sharing etiquette: Do not assume that your decision to share baby photos grants you permission to post photos of other people’s babies, even if they do it. Always ask permission first.
Joanna Jullien is an author, educator and speaker on strengthening the parent-child relationship in a cyber powered world. She is a mother of two grown sons, the author of The Authority In Me: The Power of Family Life in the Network Culture, produces The Sacramento Cyber Safety Examiner column on Examiner.com, and is the CyberParenting advisor on The Fish 103.9FM. Her new book, A Google World in the Garden of Eden: Five Family-Safe Strategies for Texting and Social Media is now available for PC and all eReader formats including Kindle, Nook, iPad.
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Jodie Stevens, hostess of The Fish Family Morning Show on 103.9FM The Fish offers insights and lessons learned about faith and recovery from addiction. Check out her blog, Genuine Life with Jodie Stevens, weekday mornings on the Family Morning Show.