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Can you think of a more irresistibly photogenic creature than your dimpled baby triumphantly hoisting a plump fist full of birthday cake? Or any subject more closeup-ready than your unsteady toddler taking their first steps?

So with a camera always just a few swipes away, these are the kind of moments many of us capture without a thought. And often, without a second thought, we take the extra minute to share these memories online. After all, what parent could resist?

This instinct is a normal one—and one that existed well before the dawn of the internet. "Remember Grandma's brag books? Parents and grandparents always feel the need to share," says Pamela B. Rutledge, PhD, Director at Media Psychology Research Center.

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Sharing gives us a way of appreciating or savoring the experience with the bonus of getting social validation, Rutledge says. "Sharing can also be a way of normalizing one's experience as a parent — feeling like you are doing things the right way; reaffirming your identity as a parent."

However, even though we're not alone in our desire to race to the virtual rooftops and shout the most adorable aspects of our kids' lives (one survey found that 30% of parents post a photo or video of their child at least once a day), this urge directly conflicts with the cautionary tales we hear about the internet's darkest corners. Tougher still can be pinpointing which risks are real and which are internet lore (remember the Momo challenge hoax?).

As parents, the world, and particularly the internet, can feel like a scary place. But we can't write the web off as wholly sinister — nor can we pretend like it's a panacea. Because right now, we simply don't know.

Millennial parents are essentially pioneers in this sweeping gray area that is parenting online. There is no roadmap. The best we can do is evaluate the information we do have and use it to make choices that align with our comfort level.

"It's complex. We're the first generation of parents to raise kids online, and our kids are the first generation to grow up under the watchful eyes of their parents' newsfeed," says Stacey Steinberg, a law professor at the University of Florida and author of the upcoming book Growing Up Shared. "So it's this really unique generation that we're trying to navigate, and there's not a lot of data to drive our decision-making."

We've been able to document our own lives online for the past 15 years or so. For many parents today, that's only about half our lives or less. But our children's social media presence may have pre-dated their births.

One study by internet security firm AVG found that 92 percent of children in the U.S. have an online presence before the age of two, and nearly a quarter of kids made their online debut before they entered the world thanks to ultrasound photos posted by their parents. And it's important to note that this research came out in 2010. For context, since then, Instagram has grown by an estimated million users to a billion. That's potentially a lot more sonogram photos.

What's the harm in sharing?

Because the internet is forever shape-shifting and we have yet to see the long-term effects of our sharing right now, the line between sharing and oversharing is a moving target. Navigating this chasm starts with understanding the tangible risks involved with sharing online, so let's break those down. The risks tend to fall into two categories:

1. Virtual theft

When you share something about your child online, you don't have full control over who has access to that information or how they'll use it. Anything you share online has the potential to be viewed by anyone anywhere in the world, warns Rebecca Herold, an information security, privacy, and compliance consultant and CEO at The Privacy Professor. "As long as one other person online has access to your child's photo or video, you are trusting that they are not going to take that photo and share it in ways that you would not want them to," she says.

Probably the least threatening manifestation of this is that companies are constantly collecting information on all of us — including our children — so they can better target us with advertisements. At the most nefarious end of the spectrum, sometimes innocent photos of children are stolen to be used for illicit purposes.

Then, of course, there's identity theft, which is becoming a real threat thanks to the sheer volume of information available online. In 2018, the bank Barclay's forecasted that parents sharing personal information about their children online will account for two-thirds of identity fraud by 2030.

"Babies are common targets because their identities can be criminally used for many years before your child reaches an age where they will be applying for a loan, credit card, etc, and subsequently discover they've been an identity theft victim," Herold says.

According to Barclay's the pieces of information that make your child most vulnerable to identity fraud are: full name, home address, and birthdate. Chances are, you aren't straight up Tweeting your social security number, but you may be revealing more than you think with an online birth announcement that details your child's full name and birthdate or a geotagged photo that gives away your home address.

2. Your child's digital legacy

Another important consideration for parents is their child's digital footprint, Steinberg says. Parents may be posting for years, shaping their child's digital reputation, before their child fully grasps the concept of online sharing and how to construct their own identities publicly.

When kids are old enough, they may feel exposed since these images were posted without consent and want to take back control of their images, Rutledge says. "One difficult issue is the boundary between parent and child. Parents share what their kids do as a reflection of their role as a parent. In many cases, this is about the parent more than the child," she explains. "At the same time, these are the child's images that are being posted and shared." She adds that by posting images, not only do parents make them searchable, but they also might unintentionally giving another party permission to reuse them.

Share smarter

"While there are concerns, I'm in no way suggesting parents stop sharing altogether," Steinberg says. "I'm suggesting they make well-informed choices with regards to what they share."

Take a look at the privacy policies on the social media platforms you use. "Review the site's terms and conditions, sometimes hidden within the site's privacy notice/policy, to understand the specific types of data that is collected when you post," Herold says.

While you're at it, check the settings on your devices. "Find out how much information is being saved on that device and how much is being shared," says Denise Lisi DeRosa, an online safety expert and founder of Cyber Sensible. "You want to make sure you're not always sharing your exact location, which could be your home address."

And there are certain things experts advise not posting at all:

  • Pictures of your child in any state of undress. Images like this could make your child a target for predators. "Maybe your child is wrapped in a towel or the towel is half off. That's a cute photo to share with Grandma — not with Facebook," DeRosa says.
  • Identifying details. This includes location information that might give away where you live or where your child attends school.
  • Something that may be embarrassing later. This one is totally subjective, but consider how your child might feel in the future. "Even though it's cute now, it might not be cute in five or 10 years when their friends see it," DeRosa says. Aired grievances may also not age well. Think about whether or not this is something you'd share publicly offline. "I wouldn't walk into a movie theater and stand up and shout, 'I'm trying to potty train, does anybody have suggestions?'"

Give your kids a say in sharing

As soon as your children are old enough — around 5 or 6 — engage them in conversations about what you share, and as they get older, give them veto power over what information is shared, Steinberg says.

Having a conversation is always a good idea, but it has to be age-appropriate, Rutledge adds. "A 4-year-old is not going to understand what it means to have images public," she says. "They might understand the intention of putting a picture where Grandma can see it, but they won't understand that, in five years, someone may find a picture and tease them about it. The conversation should continue periodically."

One place to start might be right after you take a photo. As you look at that picture, talk to your child about where it might be going. If you post it and someone leaves a comment, let them read it and give them a chance to respond, Steinberg says. Inviting your child to look at social media with you gives them training wheels before they ride solo with their own accounts. It's an opportunity for you to model courtesy and responsible online behavior.

And as you share some of the consequences of sharing online, you can also share the positives with your children. "It's really important for parents to talk about [the] many benefits of sharing. It helps us connect with family and friends who live far away. It helps us build our communities and online relationships and networks, Steinberg says. "There's a lot of power in our narrative when we share our vulnerabilities. So many good things come from sharing online, and I never want to silence a parent's voice."

Ultimately, you have to weigh the risks and benefits and make the decision that feels right for you and your family, whether that means going analog with your photo-sharing and filling the plastic-coated pages of an old-school brag book or documenting your child's daily life — or falling somewhere in between — is up to you.

"Just as we have regular conversations about how we feed our kids and discipline our kids, we need to have more regular conversations about how we share about our kids," she says. "There are more questions than there are answers, so this isn't about judging, it's about trying to move the conversation forward."

This story originally appeared on Apparently.

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As a mid-Spring holiday, we never knew exactly what to expect from the weather on Easter when I was growing up in Michigan: Would we get to wear our new Sunday dresses without coats? Or would we be hunting for eggs while wearing snowsuits?

Although what the temperature had in store was really anyone's guess, there were a few special traditions my sister and I could always depend on—and it won't come as a surprise to anyone who knows me that my favorite memories revolved around food. After all, experts say memories are strongest when they tie senses together, which certainly seems to be true when it comes to holiday meals that involve the sounds of laughter and the taste of amazing food.

Now that I'm a parent, I'm experiencing Easter anew as my children discover the small delights of chocolate, pre-church brunch and a multi-generational dinner. While I still look forward to the treats and feasting, I'm realizing now that the sweetest thing of all is how these traditions bring our family together around one table.

For us, the build-up to Easter eats is an extended event. Last year's prep work began weeks in advance when my 3-year-old and I sat down to plan the brunch menu, which involved the interesting suggestion of "green eggs and ham." When the big morning rolled around, his eyes grew to the size of Easter eggs out of pure joy when the dish was placed on the table.

This year, rather than letting the day come and go in a flash, we are creating traditions that span weeks and allow even the littlest members of the family to feel involved.

Still, as much as I love enlisting my children's help, I also relish the opportunity to create some magic of my own with their Easter baskets—even if the Easter Bunny gets the credit. This year, I'm excited to really personalize the baskets by getting an "adoptable" plush unicorn for my daughter and the Kinder Chocolate Mini Eggs that my son hasn't stopped talking about since seeing at the store. (You can bet this mama is stocking up on some for herself, too.)

At the same time, Easter as a parent has opened my eyes to how much effort can be required...

There is the selection of the right Easter outfits for picture-perfect moments.

There is the styling of custom Easter baskets.

There is the filling of plastic eggs and strategic placement of them throughout the yard.

But when the cameras are put away and we all join together around the table for the family dinner at the end of the day, I can finally take a deep breath and really enjoy—especially with the knowledge that doing the dishes is my husband's job.

This article was sponsored by Kinder. Thank you for supporting the brands that support Motherly and mamas.


Our Partners

Sydni Lane, a trauma nurse and Instagram influencer is on the front lines of fighting the coronavirus pandemic and she shared a very powerful message with us this week—she's scared. She's scared of contracting this virus and bringing it home to her family, including her asthmatic children. She's scared for her safety. She's scared people still might not be taking this as seriously as they need to be.

Because she doesn't have enough personal protective equipment (PPE) at work. Because her face is bruised from wearing a mask for over 13 hours. Because she fears we may not have started social-distancing as a collective nation early enough. Because even though she accepted a job as a nurse in the ER, the day she'd have to fight a global pandemic likely hardly ever crossed her mind.

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And because this seems to be only the beginning for her and her colleagues as they prepare for the peak to hit eventually. She is understandably scared.

She wrote—

"I broke down and cried today.

"I cried of exhaustion, of defeat.

"Because after four years of being an ER nurse, I suddenly feel like I know nothing.

"Because my face hurts after wearing an N95 for 13 hours, which happens to be the same N95 I wore yesterday for 12.5 hours, and the same one from all last week.

"I don't know how many times I've heard the statement 'but this is what you signed up for.' Just, no.

"I signed up to take care of sick patients, yes. I did not sign up to be unprotected by their sickness (although my hospital is busting their [butts] to try to protect us). I did not sign up to be yelled at by angry patients because our government failed to be prepared. I did not sign up to risk mine and my family's health and safety because people wanted to go on their vacations after they said NOT to.

"An ER nurse in New York died today of COVID-19. He was in his 40s and had very mild asthma. That's it. This is not just a tall tale, this is the real risk. I have to go into every patient's room and in the back of my mind I think 'this could be the patient that gets me sick... that kills me. This could be the patient that gives me the virus I bring home to my children or asthmatic husband.' This is my new reality.

"But this is only the beginning. We haven't even scratched the surface of the impact of what this illness is going to make on our country.

"And I'm scared."


Our hearts go out to these healthcare workers who are—no doubt—superheroes. They are risking their lives to ensure the safety of ours. They're separated from their loved ones. Some may even be experiencing personal and even financial hardship right now. They are treating patients around the clock under extreme circumstances and, honestly, there are not enough words in the dictionary to accurately explain our depth of gratitude.

What we can do is help. If you have the means to, donate. Donate to Feeding America. Think of a friend or family member working at a hospital and Venmo them any dollar amount—even just enough for a coffee. If you know how to sew, make medical masks for your local hospital.

More importantly, reach out to them and ask them how they are. Let them know you're thinking of them and how grateful you are for their work. I bet they could use the encouragement right about now.

Life

Bestselling author, professor and researcher Brené Brown is well-known and loved for her inspirational approach to life's challenges (and for her Netflix special The Call to Courage)‚ but even she acknowledges that the coronavirus pandemic presents a whole new set of challenges for families.

"Collectively, what I see is a growing weariness. I think we're tired, physically, emotionally, spiritually exhausted," Brown said on Monday in an interview for the Today Show, adding that part of the challenge is acknowledging that we're in it for the long haul. "We're going to have to settle into a new normal, while grieving the old normal, which is a lot to ask of people."

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With schools and workplaces closed and social distancing measures in effect across the country, many parents are pulling triple-duty at home right now as full-time caregivers, homeschool instructors and workers. At some moments, it can (understandably) feel as if parenting through coronavirus requires more than we have to give.

Enter Brown's "family gap plan," which can help families bridge the gap during tough moments.

As Brown explains it, "I'd say (to my husband), 'Steve, all I have is 20%.' And he's like, 'Hey, I've been holding down the fort here. All I got is 20.' So we'd say, 'Okay, we've got a gaping 60%. What are our rules when we don't have 100% as a family?'"

Brown stresses the importance of keeping lines of communication open as a family: "Let people know where you are." She and her husband have a policy of being honest with their children about moments when they feel low-energy or high-stress.

"I'll say, 'We have to make 100 as a family. I've got 20, and your dad's got 20. What do we do to get to 100?' And it's about the way we talk to each other, the way we show up with each other, extra kindness...and takeout."

In fact, Brown's kids helped come up with the set of rules their family follows whenever there's a "family gap" and things aren't adding up to 100%:

  • No harsh words
  • No nice words with harsh faces
  • Say you're sorry
  • Accept apologies with a "thank you" (as opposed to "okay," which can sound frosty)
  • More knock-knock jokes and puns

Every family is different, and your family's way of bridging the gap may call for a different set of rules (and the truth is, it's okay to not be okay sometimes). But as tactical, actionable advice for keeping the peace at home goes, the more humor and kindness, the better.

News

It was 8 pm on Sunday night and the kids were in bed. I was in the middle of urgent work emails for my mental health clinic to ensure we were prioritizing the health and care of our clients in light of the novel coronavirus spread. My work demanded my attention.

My partner walked into the room. I looked up and paused and saw the uncertainty in his eyes. I could see that he needed me.

This was one of those moments. This was a bid for attention.

Bids for attention are our attempts to connect with our partners—to be seen, to be appreciated, to be acknowledged, to be given affection. They can be small bids (like making eye contact and smiling) or bigger bids (like asking for help). Often it is not about what someone says or does, but rather the meaning behind the action.

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When your partner asks, "How was work today?" (or even just, "What's up?") what they are really asking is, "Will you talk to me?"

If they glance over and smile at you, what they really want to know is, "Will you notice and connect with me?"

For some, reaching for connection with our partner takes the form of actual verbal requests for help, as in "I need help" or even "I feel like you don't love me."

For others, nonverbal expressions are how we attempt to connect—for affection, care and engagement.

On that Sunday night, my partner didn't say anything. It was all in the look on his face.

I could have said "I have to do this!" and dismissed him from the room. I could have made a list of the things that were necessary to get done. I could have ignored him altogether.

But how we respond to these bids for attention in our relationships is key.

We can either turn towards our partner and see these bids for attention, or we turn away and shut them down. Dr. John Gottman, the relationships researcher, clinical psychologist and founder of the Gottman Institute, found that couples who were still married six years after their initial research meeting turned towards each other 86% of the time, while couples who ended up divorced turned towards each other 33% of the time.

So how do we respond to bids for attention?

One way of responding is by turning towards your partner. This is you seeing your partner's attempt to connect. This is you deciding that whatever is going on for you can wait because you can see that your partner needs you. This is you, at times, putting aside your own feelings, and seeing your partner's.

What does turning towards look like?

  • Smiling back and holding eye contact.
  • Sharing the feeling that comes up at that moment.
  • Responding to touch and letting your partner know you feel them there and appreciate their efforts to connect.
  • Asking what your partner needs in the moment.
  • Seeing your partner's emotion and reflecting it back to them.
  • Asking how you can help them in this moment.
  • Asking a following up question.

The challenge, of course, is that during times of stress and overwhelm, or when we feel disconnected and distressed, we get stuck in turning away from our partners.

Turning away takes a number of forms, too. Sometimes it looks like walking away and not acknowledging your partner, or passing each other in the hall and not meeting your partner's gaze. It may also look like staying away from your partner instead of going to them, or changing the topic when difficult things are brought up. It may also be minimizing the other person's experience ("it's not a big deal") or coming back with a defensive response. Maybe you don't even respond to your partner at all.

Missing these bids for attention sends our partner the message that we don't see them and that they are not important. This slowly erodes the health of your relationship.

We all miss bids for attention at times—particularly during times of stress and struggle. We must learn to tune into our partner and see them when they are asking—silently or out loud—for connection. What are the ways your partner tries for your attention? Have you shared with your partner how you try to get their attention?

On that Sunday night, in the middle of a pandemic, I chose connection. I paused my work and connected with him. I asked him what was going on for him, and I held him close.

You can choose to respond to your partner during this difficult time. You can choose to see your partner in front of you and create closeness and responsiveness. Because this is a time when we all need to create connections.

Love + Village

Chances are, social distancing boredom is starting to set in. You've cleaned your home, watched your favorite Netflix movies (several times), cooked several meals from your stockpile and you've managed to do this all while homeschooling your little one. Good job, mama!

While we can manage our own boredom, trying to keep our kids entertained has been a real challenge. These days our saving grace has been a host of indoor activities, and now, neighborhoods are creating "bear hunts" to help kids minimize boredom even more.

The idea was inspired by the children's book We're Going on a Bear Hunt by Michael Rosen and Helen Oxenbury and is exactly how it sounds. You walk around your neighborhood in search of stuffed bears in windows. Put simply, it's the perfect way to get fresh air while practicing social distancing. Even more, it's the perfect distraction that unites neighborhoods and families.

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To get in on the action, visit the "Going on a Bear Hunt" website to find out where the bears are near you or how to start the hunt in your town. Once you've decided your path, sing "We're Going on a Bear Hunt" song to add some fun to your experience.

Shanna Bonner Groom, who spearheaded the recent bear hunting initiative in the Stewart Springs neighborhood of Murfreesboro, Tennessee told TIME that she got the word out by posting the idea in her neighborhood's private Facebook group after seeing it floating around on social media.

"Within hours, everybody was responding and wanting to join in," she said. "Everybody's trying to enjoy this time at home with each other but do social distancing at the same time. So we're trying to come up with some fun activities."

The bear hunt isn't stopping in the United States, in fact many have spotted bears in cities as far as London and New Zealand.

"To the parent (it's gotta be a parent) who came up with this idea, THANK YOU. Explaining to a 4-yr-old why playdates aren't allowed anymore is heartbreaking, so "Going on a Bear Hunt" during our walks is the distraction we needed," says London-based mama, Daniele Hamamdjian.

Indeed, the world needs as many furry friends as possible right now.

News
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