July 1, 2008

DTQ: How Do You Manage Your Kid's Online Info?

You know, it seems not enough to just say, "There can be downsides to blogging about your kid." The WSJ's parentblogger Cybele was specifically worried about what happens when they post pictures of their kid on flickr [though apparently not so worried that they make them all private/friends & family.]

Do you have tips, advice, favorite sites, or cautionary tales [your own, not some apocryphal friend's cousin's kid deal] for managing your kid's online life? Here's a quick round-up of the majors:

YouTube, flickr, and Picasa all have privacy settings that can require pre-approval, passwords, or invites to view the content you upload. Album sites like snapfish.com have always had invite-only options for viewing and printing photos.

Blogger.com allows you to publish a password-protected, invite-only blog, or simply to opt out of search engine indexing. Vox.com offers even more granular levels of control over who gets to see and read the content you publish online.

A few startups--founded by parents, naturally--even offer publishing and community tools tailored specifically for baby info. Control of your kidsite's privacy is baked right in. Bundlo.com was the first serious baby website provider I heard of [I learned about them because they were an early DT advertiser.] Recently, Kidmondo.com has launched a baby journaling offering, too. Just a few minutes ago, I saw a commenter mention Kinzin.com, which emphasizes "family websites" and "private, virtual social networks." They also play up their Canadian angle, if nationalism is an important criterion in choosing a baby site solution.


On my public blog, Smartfathers.com, I only talk about my family using nicknames like little boy, mommy, little girl... I also don't sign my full name and try to make it somewhat harder to know where we are geographically. I even take these rules with me to my personal family blog. I have it hidden from search engines and all of my videos and pictures are unlisted as well. I just email my family the links. It's the best that I've found so far.

In your post you mentioned that you can password protect a blog on blogger? Is this true? For now I have been limited to the "email invite" only access, but if you can password protect it, that would be much simpler.

[I think both my brother and sisters' families have register-to-read blogs. I guess I'll doublecheck. -ed.]

I have a server running our website and have gone so far as to become an official google administrator of the site ( https://www.google.com/webmasters/tools ) and remove it from the search engine results.

That started when a friend posted a sort-of naked kid picture on flickr and it got over 200 hits in a day. she quickly went PRIVATE with all the pictures. creepy.

But in this world of facebooking and myspacing, it will be our generation that will remember when we didn't put our entire lives online... well, except those of us who blog about everything. ;)

we just use email to share pictures and anecdotes... I guess we're old fashioned.

I have far too public of a life online to worry about trying to hide it. I discovered how easy it is to find me online by simply searching my name, so I just don't worry about it. The alternative is to adapt a pseudonym for every public thing I do. Everyone jumps to the worst conclusion. Geoff, maybe people were searching for baby pictures on Flicker to use in some silly post and they came across the naked baby picture by accident. Seriously, I'm sure there are plenty of places to find kiddie porn on the internet, and I don't think people would need to go searching for my child's pictures to get their sick sick fix.

I use nicknames for my family which works great as long as you operate in relative obscurity. Once you attract local readership, it can be a little creepy having strangers approach you. But my wife is a labor and delivery nurse, so we're used to being stopped in public.

My kids will have to be taught to never mention daddy's blog to their friends because there are surely things that will embarrass them in their teen years. The nicknames otherwise shield them from youth rivals who might google them digging for dirt.

If you're online for purely personal reasons, password-protect your information. It's the only safe option.

If you want readership, having photos and real family details helps attract interest. It sets you apart from a growing number of parent blogs that aren't actually written by parents.

Years ago -- more than several decades -- a mother in my neighborhood wrote a local newspaper column about her family. She called the kids by age: Five, Six, Nine (changing it each year), and wrote about events that had taken place a few years before, so that what she discussed was history. Pretty amazingly "anonymous" for the time.

However, once the kids hit school, everyone seemed to know who they were, and the results -- for years -- weren't pretty, even though Mom was fairly circumspect in what she wrote.

How this works for each family probably has a lot to do with the family culture. Dooce's website probably fits right in with how that life is lived, for better or worse. Their choice, to be sure.

DT's approach is probably a lot more sensible, and certainly the sanest default stance. Though there's no predicting how outraged (or not) an older/adult kid might be discovering it all later.

And, Julie, Geoff's 200 hit spike was absolutely due to people looking for naked children. Otherwise, it wouldn't have been a spike. You don't get a spike like that looking for "baby pictures".

What I've found is if you make your flickr account non-searchable from flickr or the third party APIs, most outsiders never come upon your stuff. I have looked at my stats and they are very low. Also, if you don't tag your pictures they can be really hard to find. It sort of takes the fun away from flickr but can be easier than making them friends and family only (which is the best way to deal with it)

when the kid is only, we'll password protect, I'm sure.

oh, and no pics of the kids in any state of undress. its sad, but its crazy to do it. Make print copies and stick them in an album.

[but don't make them at Wal-Mart, Costco, or Eckerd Drugs, or they'll throw you in the slammer. -ed.]

I started using YouTube to share kid videos with family members. Earlier I had attempted to e-mail video files, but the recipients often weren't able to run them (or would get sound, but no picture, stuff like that).

For my first video uploads, I used the private setting on YouTube. This proved to be too much of a pain/too "technical" for some members of the family. You have to first send them an invitation to be your YouTube friend. If they don't have a YouTube account, they have to create one. Then they can accept your invitation. I know, it doesn't sound that bad, but not every Grandma and Grandpa could handle it. (Some could, of course). Password protection would be simpler, I think.

Now I upload them as public, but disable the ability to embed. Hits stay around 10-20. I'll change tactics if things get weird.

I always refer to my kids as the Boy and the Girl. There are rare pics of them but nothing of any real interest. I have always tried to remain rather opaque as regards my children and their identities and as a result don't tend to feel particularly concerned about it.

That said, I was rather creeped out when I discovered a vistor who after perusing it briefly then did a search within it for "naked boy". That put a protective buzz in me.

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