Digital footprint for little ones:
Good or bad idea?

The other night I was watching the Conan O’Brien talk show when actor Ashton Kutcher came on as a guest. It was a standard interview, but something he said really caught my attention. Kutcher and his partner, actress Mila Kunis, created an email address, a Twitter handle, an Instagram account, and secured domain names in the name of their newborn daughter – before she was even born. 

It is not surprising, considering Kutcher is an “early adopter” tech guy (he even played Steve Jobs in a movie), and was one of the first celebrities to embrace Twitter, regularly using it to connect with his 16.5 million followers.  

As bizarre as the idea sounds, creating an online footprint for your child is a new trend that has begun to take off. A recent study done by Gerber.com stated that nearly 40 percent of “millennial” moms started a social media account for their baby before their child’s first birthday, and 7 percent did so before the child’s second birthday.  

I was immediately taken with the idea. My husband, who was lying on the opposite couch during the TV show, wasn’t so enamored with it. Mind you, he doesn’t get Facebook, either. It goes against every fiber of his “private” being, and he thinks it’s one big “brag-fest” where everyone is vying to be the perfect parent by carefully managing their images in the same vein as a PR agent managing a wayward celebrity client. (Never mind that I often catch him looking over my shoulder when I’m logged in … nosey bugger.) 

Regardless, I screeched over from my spot on the other couch: “Let’s do it!” The idea of writing my toddler emails so that one day he can gain some insight into what life was like before he had any memories is, quite frankly, very appealing to me.  

Fast forward seven years into the future and I can imagine him logging into his 15th generation MacBook to discover all of these long, beautiful letters eloquently written by me, his father, or anyone else who cared to share their love for him (grandmas 1 and 2). I would, of course, attach photos and videos of his first steps, first dill pickle, first haircut. I began to romanticize my now-adult son cherishing and treasuring these emails when his father and I are too old and frail to write or speak, or perhaps have passed on. 

Then reality sunk in. I haven’t even gotten around to writing in either of his two baby books received as shower gifts, except for a brief two-page stint during his first month of life when he was still sleeping all day long and I had a few hours to kill between pumping breast milk.  

I also have thousands of pictures and videos of him, but sadly most remain on my laptop or iPad. There are just so many that it’s daunting to pick even a handful to frame and hang on the wall. I keep setting deadlines but they keep passing me by. The next deadline to have these tasks completed is by his second birthday, which is next month. But how easy would it be to write a quick little email here and there, since I’m on my computer all day long? I could even write two or three a day, but what exactly would I write that would be so compelling to him five years down the line? 

 

Dear Sebastian, 

Last night you were up only once (hurrah!), but, unfortunately, that lasted for over an hour when you decided you wanted to party like a drunken sailor. Mommy is very tired today and in a very bad mood. Also, you only ate half of your grilled cheese sandwich at lunch and you had three poops. 

Love, 

Mom and Dad 

Pitfalls of social media 

 

Social media has its upside and downside. For every mom who is against putting pictures and posting about their baby on Facebook, there is another who does it obsessively (and annoyingly). I like to post things every few weeks or so but am starting to suffer a bit from “Facebook fatigue,” as well as starting to worry about his privacy (or rather, lack of). But living so far away from family and life-long friends, social media is an excellent way to share the tender moments and bridge the distance with loved ones. 

A few parents I know are against posting anything online about their kids and if you even post a photo of their kid, they will ask it to be removed. They see these sites as a breach of privacy and question the security measures of sites like Facebook, which has changed its security/privacy options so many times, and with such complicated legalese, it’s like a Chinese puzzle and you are trying to decipher which box to click. Many of my friends have fallen off social media altogether – it’s just too much upkeep while juggling parenting and work duties. 

As for creating an online presence exclusively for your child, many parents are of the belief that this is a decision that he or she should make once they become a young adult; when they are old enough to navigate social media all by their lonesome. Let’s face it, whether you create an account for your kid or post things from your own account, their photos and names are still out there for all to see. But privacy and security issues aside, parents need to consider how their kids will feel when they get into those self-conscious “tween” years and know their parents have been posting or tweeting about them to the world for their entire life – and often what you find humorous (“my baby peed on my phone!”) will most definitely mortify the now-tween!  

It seems like social media is here to stay, and everyone needs to accept that it is and will continue to be how people communicate now. Facebook shows no sign of waning, and if it does, I’m sure there will be another, better, more advanced social media site around the corner. Rivals already include Instagram, Snapchat, WhatsApp, Tumblr, Pinterest and Reddit. I may not be so quick to jump on the bandwagon the next time around, although I do toy with the idea of creating an Instagram page dedicated solely to my son (specifically for family members to view). After all, an online baby photo album is better than none at all. 

As for Mr. Logical over there on the couch, he shot down the entire idea as soon as I voiced it. He told me no little boy is going to care about that kind of stuff. “Besides,” he said, “how will we even know Gmail will be around in a few more years, and what if Twitter and Instragram go the way of Myspace?

Maybe we won’t even have computers but microchips in our hands, or we’ll just be swiping the air in those hologram interfaces like in those sci-fi movies! Maybe we’ll just talk to our mobile devices and computers, and sexy voices that have thoughts and feelings will do all the typing and sort our emails for us, just like in [the 2013 film] ‘Her’!” 

Point taken. Hey, stranger things have happened. Don’t forget, just a few short years ago we all had the joys of dial-up Internet. That static-y screeching sound still sends shivers up my spine. Actually, now that I think of it, maybe I’ll forgo this whole digital footprint thing and just stick with my column.

I’ll cut out the clippings and put them into a book for my son … when I get around to it, of course. 

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Holographic displays and gestural interfaces may replace computers in the near future.
Getty Images/Blend Images

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Creating an online footprint for your child has its pros and cons.
Getty Images/Image Source