Steven Leckart, a writer for the Wall Street Journal and new parent, points out in a recent column that before parents rush to create a social networking presence for their babies (there are even Facebook pages for the unborn!), they might want to consider that a digital presence lasts forever. Those nude pictures on the bear rug or in that bright pink pig costume for Halloween are mighty cute now, but parents might want to cut their kids a break by letting them take part in social media on their own terms and in their own time. Leckart calls this avoiding "oversharenting."
Unconvinced? Consider the blog "STFU, Parents," which collects submissions of Facebook status updates and photos by parents just to mock them ("STFU" stands for "shut the f- up"). You'll only need to glance at some of the posts, complete with pictures that no one will want available to the general public long term, to recognize that you should start rethinking what you should and shouldn't share about your children and parenting. To rephrase an old Bill Cosby television show title -- those parents, they post the "darndest" things!
While social media is this generation of parents' way to share, you always need to take care in what you share, where, and with whom. On Facebook, while privacy settings allow you to control which circle(s) of friends have access to what parts of your profile, many people either don't understand how to use them or prefer not to. Plus, like music labels and print publishers, parents are discovering that once content becomes digital, it can be easily copied and redistributed willy-nilly (hello, grandparents!). The result: photos of kids in compromising, colorful circumstances, and status updates recounting even more compromising, colorful circumstances, intended for a select few, are now spread out over the Web for everyone.
So, before you share your family life online, make sure you are uploading things you would want to have around for a long and full life before you saddle your children with that kind of burden. As one of my friends commented when I told him I was doing this story, "You don't want to be a poster family for that web site, Awkward Family Photos."