So you have a new baby. Got diapers? Got blankies? Got pacifiers? Got baby photos online?
If you’re like 92 percent of Americans, you can say “yes” to all of the above.
A CNN story from October reports that 82 percent of children in 10 Western countries have a digital presence before the age of 2, according to a study by Internet security firm AVB.
And the U.S. leads the pack — with 92 percent of our babies appearing in online photos.
Welcome to our Brave New World, where not just parents, but families and friends, post photographs of our babies to social media sites such as Facebook — or just to the Interwebs in general, via parenting sites, personal blogs, hospital sites, etc. Hell, some parents even set up e-mail addresses for their babies. Because they’ll probably learn how to type before they learn to walk, right?
Almost a quarter of babies start their online lives as fetuses when parents upload their sonogram photos or videos. Maybe it’s just me, but I’m so happy the inside of my uterus isn’t online.
Also, I wonder if all the doting new grandmas out there realize just how much information they should not be sharing when they post birth announcements and photos? Giving out personal data on-line, such as birth dates, full names or even hometowns, can help identity thieves. Identity theft is on the rise — the most recent stats I found say that more than 10 million Americans were victims of identity fraud in 2008, which was a 22 percent increase from 2007, with an average loss of $500 per person.
So how can you protect yourself — and your baby? If you (or grandma) insist on posting photos, don’t include personal information. Recognize that none of your friends really need to know baby Amanda’s full name, date of birth, and the full names and hometown of her proud parents.
Then, set your Facebook settings on the highest privacy levels. If you don’t know how to do this, Google it. There are sites that will help you through it step-by-step. Finally, don’t “friend” people you don’t know if you want to share personal information on Facebook. I “friend” a lot of Asheville folks and businesses because of the nature of my work, but only because I keep minimal information about my kids and myself on my page.
You also can “untag” shots of your babies and children that others “tag” without your permission, thus confusing the interconnected network trail.
In terms of the wider Internet, remember that everything you put out there is cached. I’ve found blog posts that I deleted years ago, but they’re still cached and available to anyone who is looking. And you need to have some serious hacking skills to delete something from the seemingly bottomless cache pit. It’s like trying to erase all evidence of a bad tattoo.
Remember too, that we’re creating this digital trail that’s going to follow our kids for the rest of their lives. I recently heard of a young adult who changed the spelling of her name on her Facebook page so companies she’s applying for a job with can’t find her page. I’d probably just deactivate the account if I were in her shoes, which Facebook claims permanently deletes all content. Obviously, you can’t delete photos that are on other people’s pages, which can be highly irritating.
And I’ve said it before, but thank the goddesses there were no digital cameras, video cameras or smart phones with immediate online upload capacity when I was misbehaving in high school and college. Sometimes I think it’d be fun to have more photos from those days, but not necessarily floating in digital form where anyone with Internet access can see them.
Our kids are growing up in a new world of instantaneous worldwide communication. The first step to teaching them to use this access wisely and well is for those of us who are parents to learn to use it wisely and well.