For every parent I meet who agrees with me that we parents really need to have a handbook on what constitutes appropriate Facebook behaviour, there are three who think I need to take a chill pill. Regardless of which side of the fence you're on, here are 5 laws of etiquette for parents active on social networking sites that the world's babies will be thankful for, tomorrow!
Rule #1: Thou shalt not spam
I love the little new entrant in my life, and everything she does is fascinating. Thanks to the fact that I have a high-quality camera on me nearly all the time, it's easy to capture every single moment in stills and high-definition videos…But is it necessary to share it all, with everyone? It's so easy to get caught up in the moment, but not everyone is as besotted by my child as I am, right?
So, I've looked around and found some alternative, different, by-invitation-only sites (for example: timehut.us, shutterfly.com, dropshots.com, myphotoalbum.com), dedicated to my baby's pictures. The family's on it. Her cousins are on it. There are no strangers, no acquaintances, no colleagues. And family photos end up staying only with the ones closest to us.
Rule #2: Once it's out, it's out
Pictures once on the Internet can literally go anywhere. Even if I pore through the terms and conditions before registering on a site and obsessively check my privacy settings, the people I share with may not have done the same. Am I sure the photographs I publish today won't: end up in a cheap ad; or be sold to an images website; or be turned into an internet meme; or even worse, be morphed into something else altogether?
Hence, the best filter is in my head-when I choose to keep photos private.
Rule #3: Backup, backup, backup
Photographs are memories. My wife felt like she'd lost a chunk of her childhood when a physical photo album became the victim of floods. Hard disks can fail; cameras can be stolen or lost. Find a good, secure, private, online storage site (you could use sites like flickr.com, picasaweb.com, dropbox.com, box.com), and save your most important photographs. Time gone by can never return, but a photo is a tiny slice of a memory that I can still hold on to. Some can be uploaded directly from a phone-you have to do nothing, apart from clicking the picture.
Rule #4: Respect thy baby
When you raise her-changing diapers, feeding, caring, teaching-it's easy to think, this is something that belongs to me. Sure, I'm responsible for her, now and later. Sure, everything she was, is, and can be, will be, in large part, thanks to me. But does that mean I can upload photos, videos, and comments that are hilarious to me, but not to her?
It's a fine line, sure, but I have to remember that she's a person too. She'll pose for me, dress in costumes, dance and sing to make me laugh; but I have to remember she's doing it for me, because she loves me, because she loves to make me laugh. She's not doing it to amuse a whole world of strangers. Respect her privacy. Laugh with her, not at her.
Rule #5: Set an example
As an add-on to the previous rule, everytime I post a picture, a joke or a comment, I think about how the world would see it? If I Photoshop a moustache on my baby's photo for a laugh, will I inspire an idiot somewhere to unthinkingly draw it on his baby with a permanent marker in a misguided attempt to replicate it? Will this hilarious baby-riding-dog video today, result in a dog biting another baby somewhere else? I can't be responsible for the world's stupidity, but I can help by not adding to it.
I shall be a responsible-socially-networked parent. Not just for my daughter today, but for the whole world she will be a part of, tomorrow.
Do you have any ideas about being a responsible parent on the Internet? Comment below and let me know.