April 13, 2010

In Utero


By Sara Holoubek

Socially Networked from the Womb

Oh, you Web 2.0 parents, you are so modern. Baby had an online registry. Her ultrasound was emailed and forwarded many times over. And of course, she has her own baby blog.

What exactly goes on a baby blog? Her first heartbeat, first kick, every in utero move - all broadcast to a network of family and friends. And since blog posts beget others' blog posts (or at least links), one might set forth that baby was socially networked before she could say "Goo-gle."


If you really cared about your child's future, you would stop meticulously detailing her every move right now. Or at least password-protect your baby blog. Here's why.

Rights of the Blogged

A few years back, the BBC ran an article on the question of whether baby blogs violate children's
privacy. Concerns ranged from trolling pedophiles to the fact that the child has no choice in her online presence at all. She cannot control how she is portrayed, or even worse, determine which pictures, audio or video are posted. There is not even the option of clearing the record by posting comments to an unfavorable post.

Because Mom and Dad did not grow up blogged, they find this novel, even cute. But baby will think otherwise. How would Mom and Dad feel if their child blogged everything she thought about them? "Here's a picture of Dad picking his nose."

And while the BBC article suggested that once the child is old enough, her own user generated content will supersede all previous content, most of us know what it is like to have one picture, blog post or other personal mention that you would rather omit from the Google index.


Under the Microscope

Publisher and friend Morgan Friedman suggests that the baby blogs are an easy lay up for years of ridicule and suffering that will affect this generation's psyche.

Stop for a second and imagine that every detail of your life was documented in on the Web in your own, personal reality show. If my brothers hate me for recounting stupid childhood stories, imagine what it would be like to have them permanently indexed online, replete with pictures or even video. Suddenly all babies grow up like child TV stars. And you know what happens to them.

Morgan breaks down his concern by pointing out the following:

1. What goes on the Web, stays on the Web
2. A life blogged from day one is searchable from day one
3. Teenagers are cruel

He points out that even if a blog is taken down, it is possible that a record of its existence live on and on and on throughout Internet time. Sure, baby doesn't care now, but what about the teenager of 2020? Some day you might be consoling your daughter as she sits on the floor in tears, all because of that damn baby blog.


Psyche of the Blogged

Worse than embarrassment is the fact that Mom and Dad are unwittingly creating baby's online identity, something she will not come to fully understand until later in life. Will baby overlook this as her true personality develops? Or with the blog influence her thinking and self-awareness?

Various studies have detailed the effects of television and video games on youth. While the results vary, one cannot deny that technology has its imprint on the psyche. So what will be the effect of growing up blogged? Would Socrates be Socrates if his colleagues had found baby pictures of him in spitting up in a sink?

To answer this question, Morgan and I propose a formal study of babies and their parents who blog, podcast or vlog about them. We would follow this group from age 0 to say age 25 to assess elements such as physical and mental stability, school performance, sociability and the like.

As for a control group, we are in disagreement if it is best to study children of Luddites or simply children of parents of similar socio-economic backgrounds that simply chose not to have a baby blog.


If there is one grain of hope, it is this:

There are four children in my family, me being number 3. While my elder siblings' lives were very well documented, the pictures of my younger brother and I ceased somewhere around age 6.

So perhaps baby blogs will simply be an additional trait of the first-born, thereby sparing those of us who come later. Unless, of course, you are an only child, in which case all hope is lost.


Sara Holoubek is a free agent consultant serving the interactive sector and its investors. She can be reached at saraholoubek@gmail.com.

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