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Your Baby and the Internet

Dr. Patricia Nan Anderson

Health, Wellness, & Safety

Does your small child have an Internet presence right now? Is he featured on a website, are his pictures posted in a public spot somewhere, or does he star in a YouTube video? An astonishing number of infants and little kids are already public figures, thanks to their parents. Maybe your child is one of them.

And that could be a problem. Christopher Robin, the boy in the Winnie-the-Pooh stories, was the real son of the author. As an adult, he said he felt his childhood had been exploited. He wrote, “It seemed to me almost that my father had got where he was by climbing on my infant shoulders, that he had filched from me my good name and left me nothing but empty fame.” Of course, you don’t intend to sell books using your child as the main character but what about daily or weekly posts featuring your little one? Aren’t you using your child as the main character in your presentation of your own life?

Goodness knows Facebook and other sites would be a lot less interesting without pictures of cute babies and videos of their antics. Certainly using YouTube, Flickr, and other public sites is a convenient way to store media and to share them with friends and family. But at some point a line is crossed. That point might be an age or it might be a type of content. Sharing the details of your baby’s first bath is one thing, but sharing the same child’s bathing habits (or lack of them) at age nine is entirely another. Be aware of that line. Posting the details of your child’s life is something you should do only with the greatest hesitation. This is not your life to share.

Which leads us to the more common complaint about kids’ relationship to computers: that computers are dangerous portals to child exploitation. They certainly are.  At the same time, computers are marvelous tools for thinking and creative expression. We don’t want to over-react. We don’t want to restrict computer use to protect our children to such an extent that they (or we) live in the modern equivalent of a log cabin. But stopping child exploitation starts at home. Don’t exploit your child by posting her daily life for everyone who surfs by to see.

The time to start modeling safe Internet use is now and it starts with how you portray your children online. Begin by keeping your child’s face and stories to yourself, sharing them only with friends and family. Don’t be the first to exploit your child.

© 2012, Patricia Nan Anderson. All rights reserved.

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Dr. Patricia Nan Anderson

Dr. Patricia Anderson is a nationally acclaimed educational psychologist and the author of “Parenting: A Field Guide.” Dr. Anderson is on the Early Childhood faculty at Walden University and she is a Contributing Editor for Advantage4Parents.