Thursday, January 9, 2014

Tiny Monster: Picking an Online Identity for Kids

My son's birth announcement photo.  Perhaps the one and only time he
posed and stayed exactly as I wanted while taking the picture.

We all do it.  In this digital age there is hardly a day that goes by when we parents are not checking our facebook or sharing those cute snapshots of the kid doing something.  I'm guilty of being *That Mom *.  You know what I mean, the one that has an obsessive number of albums documenting everything from the first ultrasounds to his most recent slapping of some crayons on paper that prove his the next Picasso.  I make sure to balance the "perfectly posed cute" with "look at this giant wad of gum he tied into his hair while I was trying to pee with the door closed".

This morning a friend and fellow mom shared an absolutely brilliant piece that appeared last February on another great parenting blogThis article covered something many parents in the technical age are guilty of, depicting their parenting life as *so perfect*.  The writer described it as lies by omission... we use cool filters to make it look like everything is awesome and hide the spots where the newborn just vomited an entire feeding full all over that new onesie. 

I do it too as a portrait photographer working with kids and brides to make everything picture perfect!  That photo of my son up there, that hat is covering the fact that his cute little baby butt had constant diaper rash until we figured out the right combination of cream, diaper type, and detergent for his delicate little infant skin.  Years later, I am still posting him all over the interwebz like a cool kid but with one big detail still in omission... Unless you spend time around us in person, chances are good you'll never know his name. 

A baby monster.
I posted the first camera phone images to facebook from the less than relaxing new location on the maternity floor.  Those cute, wrinkly faced images came along with the one and only time I ever shared his birth name and have long since been changed to reflect the nick name we keep for him. I have friends, co-workers, even family we are not exceptionally close to and only rarely see that know him only as "The Tiny Monster".  The name came about while I was pregnant and not yet aware of the gender of the tiny person attempting to kick an opening through my belly button like one of those creatures that haunted my nightmares for months after watching a certain scifi film.  

It is cool over time his name has proven to stick even off the digital realms because, well, it fits him so well as a toddler.  His babysitter, our friends that spend any time around him, even my parents who have seen the true evil look in his eyes that comes out when he is plotting to draw on the walls with my expensive artist's pigment pens.  

But it helps in another way too.  

You see, we are all guilty of over sharing as parents in the digital age.  From the moment we have counted those ten little fingers and toes the proof of their existence pops up on the live feeds of our entire social circle.   This means that any random bloke on Twitter, Facebook, Google, Vine, YouTube, (and whatever else I missed listing but is part of the social media insanity) is going to know all about them.  I'm not saying your child will be facing the public awareness craze of pop-culture personalities who feel the need to post selfies or even allows documenting for a TV series(I'm looking at you Snooki and Kim Kardashian), but any child who's mother is tweeting from Labor&Delivery is going to face the reality that their whole life is out there for the world to see.

Don't want to believe me, here's everything you could learn quick glance at your previous posts:

1. Birth Date: This one is seriously easy, when did you post that first picture with the "He's finally here" tag?

2. Gender: This is normally obvious well before birthdate because unless you fall into the slowly dieing group of parents not finding this out with "the big ultrasound".  If you do decide to wait, that first picture and post of the new family member is a pretty safe bet for figuring it out.

3. Name: Unless you choose to do what we have and use only a nickname, this is also often found right on that first little birth announcement post.

4. Hospital/Location: Not a big deal until you start to consider what I am listing now is not only obvious from just that first week is all you will need to apply for a copy of the baby's birth certificate... the first step to identity theft.

5. Parents Name(s): I'm sure you can guess this is one of the most obvious details for that identity theft thing I mentioned above.  It is also a good detail if you are just going for the creepy stalker factor that comes in with recent problems of child abduction. 

6. Home Location/Address: You know that little "Hometown" tag you get from profiles, yeah, consider that when you tag the location where you live and make it obvious that you are the primary parent.  This info is now out in the world and means that a dishonest person has an easy in for finding any of the many expensive items in your home left unattended while you are in the hospital with a newborn, or getting a track on that cute little bundle of joy.

I could keep going, but honestly now I want to run back and check that my profiles are all safely set to not sharing anything with anybody because I know how dangerous it is to have that out on the web.  What should we adults really be doing?  

Well, following the guidelines listed here are a good way to keep things smart and safe.  Limiting the insane sharing of details online is a great starting point for everybody, your own safety is included in that part too.  Using a nickname for kids and never listing the name of schools, day cares, or other daily activities where people can find a way to contact your child is another great idea.

So there it is... I call my son "The Tiny Monster", I don't share the name of our home town, and I over share about his self feeding habits because if you can't humiliate your kids with those cute spaghetti-in-hair photos as a toddler, their teen years will be devoid of good reasons to complain about you talking to their first girlfriend/boyfriend.

I'm fairly sure he was supposed to be eating mashed potatoes and meatballs with peas.  Yes, I feed
him in the nude after he learned to lift and "paint" under the bib with his food... I'm not a fan of
laundry even on a good day, so this lowers the rate of complete mess clothing to wade through.

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