Becoming a parent includes a long list of to-dos: stockpiling diapers, getting a crib, picking a name.
Now some parents are adding online-only tasks to lay stake to digital real estate under their baby’s name — before they even hold the birth certificate.
Parents are snapping up a domain name for their baby, creating a slot for their child on social media sites such as Facebook or Twitter and even getting the newborn an e-mail address.
“I see it all the time,” said Yalda Uhls, a child psychologist and author of “Media Moms and Digital Dads: A Fact-Not-Fear Approach to Parenting in the Digital Age.”
How this will all play out is difficult to say. After all, no one knows what the digital world will look like in 18 years.
But that isn’t stopping people. A 2010 report from online security company AVG Technologies found that 92 percent of U.S. children under age 2 have some type of digital footprint. A third have information and photos online within weeks of being born. A similar report from AVG in 2014 showed 6 percent of parents had created a social network profile for a child under 2, and 8 percent made an e-mail address for a baby or toddler.
When his twins were born three years ago, Shereem Herndon-Brown moved quickly to reserve the babies’ domain names. As the founder of Strategic Admissions Advice, a website offering college admission assistance, he can’t help but think ahead to a time when his children’s online presence will be a factor in their lives.
“I think it’s very, very common these days that parents do it, but I do recognize that we need to be responsible with it,” he said. “We will make sure there’s nothing up there that wouldn’t be something that could help them, not hinder them.”
Many parents choose to reserve a domain name, perhaps adding photos or a blog. Others might nab the name but do nothing with it, holding it for a possible future portfolio. Another thing many parents consider is e-mail. Parents often set up an account to avoid the inconvenience, for their child, of having to add a jumble of numbers at the end of the e-mail address.
“They’re kind of thinking ahead and trying to lock that in,” said Julia Wang, site director at the Bump.
It’s a millennial thing
Young parents, especially millennials (ages 18 to 34 in 2015), are jumping on this trend.
“Millennial parents are on social media, and they’re on their digital devices and smartphones all the time,” Wang said. “This is very much a part of their lifestyle.”
A 2014 BabyCenter report on millennial moms showed that 79 percent use social media at least daily. “Instagram is really made for the millennial parent, because it’s just all about photo sharing,” Wang said.
For sites such as Facebook or Twitter, some simply store a name. Others might use a handle to tweet humorous things from baby’s voice: “I tried carrots today!”
Having a Facebook site for a baby can be good etiquette, Wang noted. If a parent feels she is posting too often on her own page, she can create a page just for baby and her fans. Then, “all those 102 pictures of the baby are really dedicated for the family and close friends that are really interested about all of your baby’s development,” she said.
Wang said Bump message boards often discuss privacy and whether to post infant photos. Indeed, discussing digital expectations and decisions is a great first step for new parents, who are especially vulnerable to the temptation of posting.
Common Sense Media, a nonprofit media advocacy group for families, warns of children’s photos falling into the wrong hands, whether through identity theft or showing up on unintended websites. In May, a Utah woman found that photos of her daughter and 9-month-old son had been used on social media with hashtags connected to porn sites.
The organization notes that having a password-protected account on photo-sharing sites such as Flickr or Photobucket is an option. It also suggests apps that are designed to be privately shared, such as Notabli, 23snaps and eFamily.
It’s not just the current situation that parents need to consider. It’s also a good idea to think ahead to when your 13-year-old asks why you posted that bathtub photo when he was a baby.
“They’re probably not going to think that’s very funny to have on social media,” said Augusta Nissly, program coordinator for the nonprofit Family Online Safety Institute.
Uhls added that it’s hard to tell teens to be careful online if you didn’t model the same caution. And, she pointed out, it’s nearly impossible to know what your baby is thinking.
“They don’t even know who their child is,” she said of the parents of a newborn. “Are they going to be shy? What are they going to be? And by making this choice for them early on, are they cramming them into a box that they may not want to be in?”