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So we’ve had a few listener rumblings about what a good guy to know should know about babies – and we are starting to have some first-hand experience. My first kid is 2 months old now – Chad’s is almost one month – and Perek’s got one on the way. So I would by no means call us experts, but we’ll struggle through it.
So as I was trying to think of how to structure the content for this pillar. Especially because one of the things I’ve found with both pregnancy and kids, is that there is a mountain of information. We got no less than 10 baby books while Val was pregnant, and when we have a problem now, googling also give you WAY too much information. So I’ve decided on a few topics that interested me about child-rearing that weren’t really in any of the books I read, and by extension, are things that I never really thought about until they were upon us. This is stuff that our parents maybe didn’t have to think about when they were raising us 3 decades ago. So I found two of these that we’ll see how they go, and then with the remaining time, I’ve got some random tips/observations too that I can rattle off rapid-fire.
So – one of the first things that I suppose I kind of saw coming, but is also kind of a rabbit-hole when it comes to child-rearing is screen time. Here’s a good story from NPR on the topic. I want us to think back to when we were kids. We certainly had TV back then, but we probably had 1 screen our house so it wasn’t really a ‘tool’ that our parents had at their disposal. Eventually by the time I graduated high school, we were up to 3 TVs, and a computer. I just counted the screens in my house right now and came up with 2 TVs, 4 computers, 2 smart phones, and 2 Ipads.
This is something that hasn’t really been heavily studied because it’s so new, so I honestly couldn’t find any great definitive studies on what this much exposure does to kids/babies – but I would direct you to great article from a guy called Ben Popper of “The Verge” entitled “Is Technology Scrambling my Baby’s Brain?” It gives a pretty balanced approach and does link to some studies. A few great points that the makes:
- Every new technology has been demonized and said that it’s going to harm our children. For instance, in 1835 – an educational society said that “The perpetual reading” of novels “inevitably operates to exclude thought, and in the youthful mind to stint the opening mental faculties, by favoring unequal development. No one can have time for reflection, who reads at this rapid rate”
- There is a huge difference between Passive and Active consumption of all of our new ‘screen’ technology. Again, the studies are few and small, but there was one where a professor taught two groups of children new words. One just watched a video, and the other had to touch a screen to produce an outcome. The interactive kids did better.
- As a side bar to this, I feel like this is how we (the good guys to know) used to watch TV when we lived together. We were constantly critiquing commercials, calling out bad writing in sit-coms, and trying to crack jokes. I would call this active TV watching, and it was probably not as bad as just sitting and vegging out.
So Popper lands on the fact that we need a balanced approach. I think a lot of people (myself included) feel a little queasy when we hear stories about kids that cant talk but can open candy crush on their mom’s ipad – but I think that goes in the active category that common sense says we shouldn’t worry too much about as long as we are “sharing” the experience with the kid. But plopping them in front of the TV for a sponge-bob marathon is probably not the greatest idea.
The second thing I’ve been thinking a lot about lately is social media. Namely facebook – and how much, if any, and who, should be posting pictures on facebook of babies/kids. This gets really touchy and as you can imagine, there are two really entrenched camps. So before we get into it, let’s do some statistics. So in a study by Microsoft Research, found that 62% of mom’s with kids under the age of 3 use facebook. Of those, 96% have posted pictures of their children online! So it’s ubiquitous. And Chad will back me up – that it’s easy to see why – babies are fricken cute, we are proud of our progeny and want to share it with our friends.
So nothing really seems inherently wrong with this. And we were proceeding just fine. We knew we didn’t want to bombard facebook with constant photos, but didn’t really think twice about the few that we have posted. That all changed the moment that one of my wife’s friends posted something of him. Something just felt weird and wrong about it as I saw other people who weren’t friends with me commenting on it. So this sent me down another rabbit hole of “should I post pictures of my kids on facebook” articles. I found this one that I think does a good job of talking through the three most commonly cited ‘risks’ to posting pictures of your children online, and I’d love to get your guys thoughts on these:
- Creep-os find pictures of your kid and download them and do bad things. This one they pretty much dismiss as being pretty alarmist. Crime against children research center told the new York times that predators don’t usually find their victims online (sadly).
- Someone steals your kid’s identity. I didn’t even realize this, but one of the first things you do when you “announce” your kid on facebook is to give people their full name, and date of birth. So there’s a slight chance that identity thieves might use all of this to figure out their social security number, or open a credit card in their name or something. While that’s rare, the more insidious one here I think, is that your child may get passed off as someone else’s.
- Mitch’s addendum to this – I don’t want someone seeing some super cute or funny picture of my kid and turning it into a meme or a video turning into a GIF. What if this was your kid? Or one of these.
- Do some privacy settings help with this? Maybe if they are yours, but maybe not others.
- The most thought provoking one – When your kid grows up, he’s going to inherit an entire digital history that he never made or wanted. Should I be creating a permanent identity for my kid online? Who knows what is going to be searchable editable by then? This is something that wasn’t even close to being the case 15 years ago.
My 2 cents is that there are way better ways to share photos with your friends and family. We use google+ and photostream ourselves, but there are a million other ones. Sure you could also cull your facebook friends to ONLY the people you want to share with, but I don’t think that a lot of us really want to do this. The voyeur in me still wants to be able to check up on ex-girlfriends, see who from high school is doing well/poorly, etc. So why even mess with doing anything on facebook, especially when you are creating an identity for someone who doesn’t have a say. What do you guys think?
Finally – some rapid-fire advice on my first 2 months of fatherhood and technology:
- When you are researching a topic online, like sleep strategies – read all the articles you want, but NEVER read the comments. Kind of like the real world, people LOVE giving advice and telling everyone else how they are wrong. Case and point, just google “Cry it out” and read the comments on the first few articles. It will make you feel horrible.
- Breast-feeding app. My wife is breast-feeding, and even though it’s more automatic now, the first few weeks there is kind of an obsession with how many times they get fed, how long they fed for, how many diapers they had etc. This is a perfect thing to use an app for. There is an added bonus here in that you as the dad can feel like you’re doing something by entering the data.
- White noise app + Bluetooth speaker – I’ll fully admit, we are having trouble getting our dude to sleep in his crib. My wife suggested we buy a white noise machine – but we already have everything we need with a phone and wireless speaker. I think theoretically this is going to work very well.
- You’re not going to need nearly as many clothes as you think. Not sure if this is really a tip or not, but our kid has a rotation of about 4 onesies. And we received approximately 400 of them at various showers etc.
- Buy a decent camera and spend a bit o ftime learning to use it. Get familiar with the rapid-fire setting because volume is your friend. I’d say that about 95% of the pictures I take of my kid he either looks unhappy, or inhuman. But that other 5% he looks like a baby model. Those are the ones that make it to google+.