A New Parents' Guide to Using Social Media Safely, Responsibly, and Productively
Before baby, you were a Facebooking, Instagramming, texting fool, sharing everything from your perfect pasta dish to your hella-good manicure. Now, looking at your little bundle of joy, you may be wondering: What's OK to share, and what's TMI? What are the easiest tech tools for preserving those precious moments without broadcasting them to the world? Is it safe to post pictures of baby? These tips can help.
Keep your head in the game
Think through your posts -- really. To you, an ultrasound image or the story of baby's first giggle is the most precious thing ever. To the rest of the world, it's just content. (Cutecontent, but still.) Social platforms track data, your followers judge what you post, and just like anything else, your information can be copied, shared, or misused. Ask yourself the three questions below to determine whether you need to share smaller. If so, you can send your picture to specific people, make an invite-only private group, or just set your profile to private.
- How will this make others feel? Maybe you have followers struggling with fertility who aren't ready to share your joy. Maybe your friends are over your baby (sorry). Maybe folks disagree with your choice to share baby pics at all.
- How wide is my network? You could be connected to people you barely know -- friends of friends of friends -- and there's no guarantee that those people will have your family's best interests at heart.
- Is my profile public or private? Stories about people's kids' photos falling into the wrong hands -- for example, stock-photography brokers looking for baby pics to sell or internet trolls misusing images -- are a growing risk. The bad guys get their stuff from public profiles.
Avoid "over-sharenting." What's over-sharenting? Pictures of poop, constant updates on every gurgle, livestreams of intimate moments such as breastfeeding, bath time, and potty training. Be thoughtful about what you're sharing and how often. And make sure to comment, like, or otherwise interact with your friends' and families' posts about their lives.
Know when to go to the pros. It's fine to get input from your online pals, but for anything that has major importance -- feeding, health and safety, money, education -- call your pediatrician, child care provider, financial advisor, or your mom. Anything with minimal consequences, such as when to put baby in shoes or the best time to clip their nails, is OK to crowdsource.
Be careful about baby's "digital footprint." Some parents create social media profiles for their babies with the idea their kids will use them when they turn 13 (the age of consent for social media). While it can be fun for relatives to get an update "from baby," a profile creates a digital footprint, which invites data tracking, marketing, and other privacy issues. If you decide to create a profile, make sure you include only minimal information, use strict privacy settings, and avoid any photos that are potentially embarrassing.
Here are some things to consider:
You might love the photos of baby in the tub, but how will they feel about them when they're older?
Tweens or teens might be upset that you used their names to create profiles they didn't actually consent to.
Social media sites are for users over 13 because companies use data -- basically, who your friends are, what you click on, and where you go on the web -- to build a demographic profile, which they then sell to other companies for marketing purposes. The data isn't personally identifiable, but it's still Big Brother-ish to think they're tracking your baby's online movements.
Join a photo-storage service. You'll post about 7 billion photos of your kid before they're out of diapers. Photo-storage platforms such as Flickr, Photobucket, and Google Photoshave the advantage of free or low-cost storage, plus the ability to share with only certain people or groups. (Every online platform has privacy issues, though, so make sure you're comfortable with the terms of any service you join.)
Preserve memories digitally. You can do this a few ways. Some parents like to grab the opportunity to create an email account under baby's name. Once they have an email address, you can use it to send messages, photos, and videos so they are all collected in one place. Or, consider an electronic scrapbook or journal such as Notabli, 23snaps, and eFamily, which offer a secure way to collect and share photos, videos, and stories.
Protect your well-being
Get rid of triggers. The highly curated photos and posts from friends whose lives seem more fulfilling can make moms feel sad, jealous, and angry. Unfollow anyone who doesn't make you feel good. Instead, seek out groups, advocates, and thought leaders who nourish your soul.
Tweak your settings. Most social platforms allow you to hide posts (see fewer posts from someone); snooze (temporarily stop seeing posts); mute (turn someone off for a while); and do not disturb (temporarily block a person).
Manage notifications. Constant pings on your phone can overwhelm and distract you. You can turn off notifications entirely, allow only important ones, or batch them so you receive them on a schedule.
Connect with the growing anti-perfection movement. Real Simple's public Instagram profile, #womenirl, shares photos from people's real (messy) lives.
Step away. The impact of social media isn't fully understood. New parents are emotionally vulnerable because they're tired, unsure, and perhaps suffering from postpartum depression. If you feel crappy more than you feel good, and sharing photos from your life doesn't make you feel better, talk to a professional about what you're going through.
Find real, meaningful online support. There are some really supportive online groups with active, engaged members.
- BabyCenter. You're bound to find support at this highly regarded site, which welcomes all kinds of families into its highly specialized groups.
- Café Mom. Conversation, advice, and original programming help you feel welcome right away.
- Circle of Moms. A large, active site brimming with hundreds of specialized communities you can search for alphabetically.
- Mothering. If you're into natural, holistic parenting, Mothering is the place to find support. This site offers communities for all kinds of families, from single parents to LGBTQ parents.
- PopSugar Family. For moms who like a heavy dose of pop culture with their parenting advice.
- Scary Mommy. Known for its no-holds-barred conversations, Scary Mommy hosts an anonymous "confessional" where parents can express deep, dark secrets. It welcomes anyone who likes to "say it like it is."
For dads: Fatherly, National At-Home Dad Network, and All Pro Dad have supportive communities for new fathers.
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