Digital identity, pregnancy and babies
What I have found fascinating in my latest research is the statistics about how parents are using the Internet to share stories about birth, and broadcast videos and pictures about their pregnancy, birth and young children. And as far as I can tell, there has been little commentry about this and certainly no long term research looking at the effects on children as they grow up.
Ross Dawson reported in 2010 that:
- In Canada, 37% babies have a digital identity before they are born
- Australia/NZ 41% newborns are on the net
- USA 92% children have an online presence by the time they are 2 years old
Susan Bainbridge wrote an insightful blog post about this issue last year: Protecting the digital identity of my unborn child. In it she said:
I jokingly said that we needed to be careful what we said and how we said it because we could upset a teenage Asher in the future.... Then it hit us - this is a big deal. We are responsible for our unborn son's digital identity, for now anyway.
His young life will be very public.And none of it will go anywhere. Once it's on the web, it's on the web forever. How will he feel about that one day? Where will the future of the web head and is it anywhere our son will even want to be? Are we ok to make that call on his behalf? Now? Before he's even born?
And it isn't just parents who talk about their babies. I was struck a few weeks ago about the very personal nature of the comments made by a grandmother on Facebook about her sick grandchild. I have no idea if she had her daughter's permission to talk about the baby but I did wonder how "appropriate" it was.
I suspect this is an issue that many parents haven't even thought about. We know that people do not think about their own digital identity and footprint so I imagine they think even less about the impact of digital identity on their unborn babies. I think this is an area that needs longitudinal research. And maybe educating parents about their use of the Internet and digital identity is something that midwives need to pay more attention to? What do you think?
Have you talked about your pregnancy, birth or baby online? Have you ever thought about what your baby would think in years to come? Have you considered how you manage your baby's online 'brand'? Does it matter?
Do you know of any research that has been carried out on this topic? I'd be really grateful for your thoughts and/or references.
Image: 'Free Child Buried in The Sand Creative+Commons'