Working in online media, and especially at a parenting publication, I often run into concerns about privacy. Parents want to share their kids' stories, but don't necessarily want their kids' pictures or full names thrown about willy-nilly on the Internet. Many mom and dad bloggers use their kids' initials, first names only or pet names.
But most parents aren't so careful. A recent report released finds that by the time they're 2 years old, 92 percent of U.S. children have an online footprint, complete with names and photos. And this online presence isn't coming from government records, financial documents or the news media, but instead from their parents, who share photos, milestones and celebrations with friends and family.
Setting up Facebook profiles for babies is a cute and convenient way to keep friends and family in the loop, but it's also a lot of information to share about someone who can't lift his head yet.
Not only that, but for all the uniquely American emphasis on personal privacy, American kids are far more exposed than children from other countries.
The study, run by Internet security company AVG surveyed mothers in nine countries and found that jut 73 percent of 2-year-olds have in five European countries an online presence.
The study found:
Now, I'm not sure there's anything fundamentally wrong with this (except maybe the babies-with-email-addresses part. I think these are the same parents who put their newborns on the phone when you call.) The ability to share pictures of kids' first birthdays and first steps and first tooth and first day of school let families stay connected and take parents' biological need to brag about their kids to an entirely new level.
But it's important to remember that there's no shelf life to online information and that tiny pieces of data, harmless enough by themselves, can be stitched together to create a startlingly accurate picture of someone's life. The website ICanStalkU.com shows how people inadvertently share information in their tweets that leave them vulnerable.
Don't freak out, and please don't stop sharing adorable and hilarious photos and stories and videos about your kids. They're, well, adorable and hilarious and they're part of the way we live, communicate and, yes, parent in today's age. And what would we do without "Charlie bit me" and The Laughing Baby?