Never Post a Baby Photo on Facebook?

Hi Readers — It’s nice to hear of sanity taking root!

Dear Free-Range Kids:  I just had my first child 6 months ago and I never thought I’d even have to worry about Free-Range Kid topics until he was at LEAST 3 years old, but I was wrong.

I posted an adorable picture of my son on my facebook page 2 days ago of him having tummy time on a towel; diaper free.  Lo and behold, this morning in my message box on Facebook I have a concerned ex-co-worker warning me about the dangers of putting naked pictures of my child on the internet and that pedophiles could get ahold of the photo.  I don’t know how I would have responded a few years ago.  Perhaps I would have sheepishly said I was not worried and in the back of my mind wondered if I was right.  Thanks to you and this wonderful community of fearless parents this was my response:

Oh, you can’t see his front bits. I’m not worried. Perverts can make
something sexual out of ANYTHING. Even feet, or eating cake. We lock
our doors at night, try not to drop our baby on his head, and don’t look
for babysitters on Craigslist. Most sexual abuse happens with family
members, friends, and teachers/ religious leaders, etc. So the best
thing we can do for Ari is make sure that growing up he feels comfortable
talking to us and is raised to fearlessly express his boundaries. In
addition, crimes of that nature in this country have actually
gone DOWN in the past 20 years. I respectfully appreciate your concern
but life’s to short to deprive my family members of that cute little
tush. — A Less-Worried Mom

Hey baby! It's nice to see you (here, on the internet).

Lovely. This Is How Folks Think Today

Hi Readers — Sent by one of you, from a Facebook exchange:

KM: Today I toured a “preschool” that makes the kids (4/5 year olds) nap for 2 hours everyday. Lights out, kids laying on cots in the dark for two hours! WTF! AND it cost $140/week.

MGK: Um, kids should never be left in the dark at any daycare. Sadly predators will take any chance.

KM: There was a teacher in there flipping through a magazine. The place was really small and the doors locked.

MGK: Even worse. One teacher, alone in the dark with a child/children and the doors locked. How is this legal?

JLB: … as for M’s comments, that is exactly why I am so scared of babysitters and home daycares…at least “in” a school you think it’s safer. I teach {my son} that nobody is allowed to touch him, not even me, our generation they only taught us to watch for strangers not our f*ing family members that were hurting us…sigh…

MGK: My mom is a supervisor at the CDC at ____ and I took her with me to tour daycares when I was pregnant. She gave me all the ins and outs of what to look for. On base they are not allowed to have the lights down or the doors locked just for that reason. Background checks do not include people who have never been caught or first time offenders.

Lenore here again: Now, I agree, we don’t want our kids molested. But I think we also don’t want everyone so freaked out about predators all the time that, my God, we have gotten to the point where we trust NO ONE to touch our kids, including — can it be? OURSELVES! That is so beyond paranoid and into whatever comes AFTER paranoid (what does?) that I am practically shaking. It’s like we’ve taken some sort of craziness pill that makes us see everyday life like a horror movie: “Coming, this winter: Predator IV. Whatever you do…don’t go into the pre-school.” — L

Why Would You EVER Put Your Child’s Photo on Facebook for the CREEPS to See?!?

That’s what scared folks ask all the time, believing that predators have a lot more patience than the rest of us and are willing to look through ALL those family photos, just to glimpse your adorable child and plan a trip across several state lines to kidnap him/her.

Next time you hear all that, remind them of this story.

As Free range reader Michael in California points out: “Thanks to Facebook, a child is alive:  Win.  The mother has a live child, not a dead one:  Win.  The friend who noticed the problem knows she saved a life:  Win.

“Child’s picture on Facebook:  Win, win, win.”

The Real Threat Online

Hi Folks! Wow, leave your blog for one little day and the talk turns to porn. I feel like the Free-Range Parent of a blog.

Anyway, I was in D.C. at the Family Online Safety Institute’s annual conference and it was fantastic to be among all sort of bigwigs from places like Yahoo and Disney and BT and TimeWarner, all listening to panelists putting online fear into perspective.

As far as kids go, the biggest danger online is not predators (just like predators aren’t the biggest risk off-line, either, in what we quaintly used to call the “real world”).  No, the thing I realized I have to sit down with my kids and talk about is “reputation management.”

Maybe this is blindingly obvious to everyone else, but it struck home with me: When we were young, the stupid things we did lived on maybe in our diaries. Maybe we’d hear about them again at reunions. But this generation’s stupidities do not die, they pixelate. Post a picture of yourself holding a beer — or anatomical part — and even if you think it is never going to go beyond the friend or two you sent it to, you just never know.

It’s hard to make kids think about the future impact of a dump profanity or pajama party picture.  But if we parents frame it in terms of something they’re really aiming for — a team, a scholarship, a future boyfriend or girlfriend  — they’ll take some note.

As Anne Collier, co-director of ConnectSafely.org, put it: “Kids need to be their own spin doctors now. Even ‘private’ profiles are pretty public. If your children are going to post a lot of photos of themselves and blog about innermost thoughts or gossipy stuff about friends, they need to be aware that ‘privacy’ is highly relative. Friends can copy anything kids post and paste them anywhere they want (and turn into former friends).  That means teaching our kids to do a little critical thinking about what ‘everybody’ — including school administrators, potential employers, and Grandma — would think about what they’re posting.”

…It’s after school now and I just tried doing that with my 13-year-old, by the way. It wasn’t a fun conversation, but I’m glad we had it. Along with the birds and the bees we’ve got a new topic now: Bytes.

For more sane advice about youth and tech, visit Anne’s website, NetFamilyNews.org and ConnectSafely.org. — Lenore

Kids Off to College? Stalk ‘Em With Social Media!

Good news! “Twitter, Facebook Revolutionizing How Parents Stalk Their College-Age Kids.” (Thank you again, Onion! And thank you, those who sent this video in.)