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To share or not to share

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Deciding about a baby’s privacy online


Jane Charney photo

Before my son was born, I swore I wouldn’t add to the legion of mommy bloggers. And I’m still hoping to focus on issues only tangentially related to babyhood.

Still, while I’m on maternity leave, my universe has shrunk to just a couple hundred square feet (with occasional walks in the neighborhood and a trip to the doctor’s office thrown in the mix). And time moves ever so slowly in the breastfeeding chair.

So I’ve had lots of time to ponder all kinds of questions. One of the foremost issue son my mind has been my child’s privacy. Sure, Oy!Chicago announced his birth along with the birth of fellow blogger Rachel Friedman’s son, but since then, mum’s been the word on Ron’s adventures in babyhood—on Oy!, on Facebook, on Google+, on Twitter, or any other social media.

When I was pregnant, I didn’t announce the impending arrival of our son on Facebook or Twitter or anywhere else—unlike most of my friends or, if we’re keeping it realistic, most of my generation. Passing references to not being able to travel by plane for some time don’t count.

For me, social media moved out of the realm of the personal and into the professional universe several years ago. I cultivate a particular persona on Facebook and Twitter, one that has a decidedly Jewish, pro-Israel voice that occasionally (ok, all the time) promotes my organization’s events, shares articles on everything from Israeli innovations to the challenges of preserving a distinct Russian-Jewish identity in America.

Very occasionally, I post photos of myself or announcements of non-work events I’m attending. That’s largely to keep my friends from completely losing faith in my ability to turn off the Jewish professional side of my personality.
Now that our son is here (oy, it’s still a little bit weird that I can call someone “my son”) I’ve ignored the several hundred requests to “please post lots of pics soon.” We announced his birth and his name the sort-of old-fashioned way: via phone calls and a mass email sent to family and friends. And information about the brit milah also did not seep onto social media.

Several reasons drive our decision to limit Ron’s exposure on social media:

1. I want to give him the choice, eventually, on how much to share about himself.

2. I don’t want to mix him into my professional social media presence.

3. I don’t want my child’s pictures exploited for others’ gain, such as the new practice of Facebook ads using personal photos within one’s network.

4. My husband is in IT security, and we’ve become paranoid about information over-sharing and theft.

I occasionally have moments when I yearn to share the latest trick he learned with the world. Those mostly come at hour 7 of being alone with him. That’s when I call friends or my mother. I’ve also been training myself to write down everything he does or learns so I can send emails to family and friends detailing his accomplishments.

Still, my Facebook and Google+ feeds are loaded with pictures of friends’ babies—seems like everyone and their mother decided to procreate in 2012! That’s why I conducted a completely unscientific survey of friends’ preferences when it comes to sharing their child’s photos and updates.

Not surprisingly, a large number of friends who are parents carefully curate who sees what within their network. Now that Facebook has some increased privacy functionality and allows users to designate special groups for various types of content, parents within my network have taken advantage of this feature. Google+ is even easier: the functionality to limit exposure was built-in.

There’s a caveat, which my friend and occasional Oy! blogger Anna Abramzon noted: “once your child has friends and play dates and birthday parties, there's really no way to keep their pictures off social media entirely.” Let’s cross that bridge when we get to it.

Another parent, former colleague Brooke Mandrea, quipped: “[Sharing photos] was the main reason I joined Facebook. How was I going to show off the kid as a sleep deprived new mom? Like others I keep it very controlled. It also helps with my litmus test for ‘friending’ people: do I want to wish them Happy Birthday AND show them pictures of my kids.”

Still others said that it’s an extremely personal decision for every parent. One friend noted that he only shares photos of his daughter with the family and friends who actually requested to see them. Another said she posts photos to a locked album on a photo-hosting site, while occasionally writing status updates with funny things her daughter says.

Despite these reasonable explanations, I’m comfortable with our decision for now. As our son grows, we’ll probably re-evaluate and change our minds a million times.

Readers, what do you think? Do you share news of your child’s accomplishments or post photos?

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