Offline vs. Online Parenting: Where Do You Stand?
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We all know her: You know, the mom who posts every little detail about her kid's day on Facebook? On the other hand, you might also know a parent who totally scoffs at the idea of posting pics of her kid online, wary of the consequences and treating everyone on her friends list as a potential predator. It's a matter of the technological age-old battle between offline and online parenting. Which side are you on?
Online parents are easily spotted: They're the ones with their child as a profile picture and a news feed dedicated to their offspring. They think nothing of posting personal information online and are more than happy to share pictures and stories with message boards, blogs, Facebook and basically anyone who'll listen.
Pros: One of the best parts of online parenting is the ability that it has to span distance. After all, plenty of families carry on long distance relationships with Grandma, Grandpa, aunts and uncles, which makes online sharing a natural for keeping in touch. Posting pics and announcing birthdays online keeps everyone in the loop.
Once upon a time, journals and photo albums were the only way to keep track of your child's milestones. Now, keeping track of the important firsts and the hopefully lasts (we're looking at you, Kid Who Pooped in the Bathtub) is much easier with the invention of online journaling, blogs and photo-sharing.
What's more, laughing over your little one's face when he tried prunes for the first time can be a serious release for mommies who need some social time. Sharing through a chat, message board or social networking site can help you connect to other parents and squeeze in grownup time—if only for a few minutes.
Cons: One of the obvious issues of sharing everything about your kids online is their privacy. Once you post something online, it's seriously hard to take it down. Even if you delete it, you have no guarantee that someone didn't take a screenshot for safe keeping. Pictures, names and stories can be used for improper and contraband purposes if you're not careful.
David Bakke, a parenting expert and writer, warns against the perils of oversharing the wrong kind of information online. "Posting pictures of your kids online is fine in my opinion, but posting any other personal information about them is a definite no-no," he says. "Stay away from posting any personal information such as their address, full name, or anything else that could compromise them. Remember, the chance that a child will have his or her identity stolen is 35 times more likely than that of an adult."
Finally, keep in mind that online parenting could be an invasion of your little one's privacy. He's not going to stay 3 years old forever and as a teen, might be mortified that you shared the details of his early potty prowess with the rest of the world.
On the other end of the spectrum are the parents who are wary of sharing anything about their kids online. In an October 2012 MSN poll, 59 percent of parents said they were worried about posting stories and pictures of their kids online and therefore, kept both on the downlow.
Pros: Let's face it: Offline parents know what they're doing in terms of online safety. They're protecting their kids by protecting their identities. That means a limited chance of identity theft and next-to-zero chance that their child's image is going to be used for something other than "aww"-ing over.
Offline parents also win when it comes to Internet privacy. By restricting access to their child to real-life family members and friends, they get to pick and choose who gets to know when he takes his first steps or flushes the keys down the toilet.
The child of offline parents also gets the benefit of a "clean slate" when it comes to Internet usage. When he's old enough to have his own Facebook account, he won't be haunted by tagged pictures of a messy 6-year-old or find his name used on message boards or photo contests.
Cons: While an offline parent usually means serious Web smarts, there are a few things to be cautious of if you decide to go completely off the grid. First, you might offend family members or friends who hope to get to know your little on the Web. Sending printed snapshots and the occasional email might not be enough for those who want more current updates.
Another issue to think about is the fact that one day, your child will need to learn about Internet safety. If you totally shun sharing online, you could be missing out on an awesome opportunity to teach your little one the do's and dont's of using the Internet. "You do want your kids to become tech-savvy and comfortable with the Internet," says Bakke, "but you must also be there to guide them in the right direction."
So, who's the winner in the war of the Facebook walls? The answer: It depends. Obviously what's right for one family might not be the best fit for another. The bottom line is that as long as you're uber-careful about what you share and still take time to teach your little one Internet safety, you have the choice to dial up or down the posts and pics to where you feel comfortable.
Now, if only your oversharing sister-in-law could learn to do the same.
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