>I am not now nor have I ever been a parent. Someday I may be a parent. If I am a parent, I’ll give my kids wacky names like ‘September’ and they’ll hate me for it. I’ll make them trek down to Arizona to visit their grandparents, where they will have to hike in the heat and sun, and watch awful movies with plots like “Were-panda terrorizes small town swim team.” I will make them be vegans–or at the very least vegetarians–and force them into those little seats on the back of a bicycle that would have made me cry when I was younger. I’ll blog about them.
One of my coworkers came in late today because she had a family moment. Her daughter found the collection of baby teeth she’d stashed away. Her daughter patted her on the arm and whispered: It’s okay, Mom, I know the Tooth Fairy isn’t real. As the first thread of childhood broke and innocence and -belief- began to unravel, my co-worker (as I imagine it anyway) felt her face go slack as she realized what was happening. Her daughter looked into her eyes like gold and assured her it would be okay, even though my coworker hadn’t said anything.
Then she tweeted about it.
Assuming that such a thing must exist, I googled for “parenting 2.0” and got 17,300,000 results in 0.17 seconds. The University of Minnesota, I learned, is conducting a study on the ways parents use technology. There are parent blogs. There are communities for all kinds of parenting.
In theory, so I am told, back in the day you had kids and you learned how to take care of them either by a) helping to raise your own siblings, b) your parents, c) your neighbors, or d) luck. Now we have this internet thing, and there’s all this -community- and -support- out there. There are people who blog about what happens, people who run Q&As, support sites, and a lot of interaction for parents who are at home, at work, away from their kids, or just about any other circumstance we can conceive of.
There are also actual new approaches to parenting. Parenting 2.0. It’s not just about tweeting what your kid does, but it’s about interacting with them through the internet.
Google Chrome gave us this advert video that gives an example of creating a digital archive, replacing the baby book in a private way. One of the Mormon housewife blogs I read, without shame!, is a more public account of raising a baby. One of my childhood friends wrote her first online letter to her child.
People I call ‘friend’ have been having children since I was somewhere in high school. At this point, they were all older friends. Then people my age(ish) started having children, usually in unpurposeful manners. Only recently did my friends begin to have children on purpose. With two more weddings this summer (one already out of the way), a vast majority of my friends will be partnered legally and not just functionally. With those who have been together for some time turning their talk to children, I have become very aware of the way technology is impacting parenting. With the communities, with the record, with the tweeting.
The aforementioned DA, whose child SA just got their first online letter, is creating a permanent, public record of who SA is. This is no longer reserved for celeberity and disaster cases. Much like how anyone can become well known in their own right(2), leaving permanent trails of themselves on the internets, anyone can also do that to their child.
With minimal effort, you can find my livejournal (started in 2001), which holds notes of me I am now ashamed of. There are pictures of me dating from 2002. My grandfather’s obituary. Things I’ve said on mailing lists and discussion forms. My very first internet post to a guest book of a website I made in fifth grade that I now look at, roll my eyes, sigh and say “well, I was like twelve.”
When I first googled myself, all that turned up was the guest book post. Then there was my grandfather’s obituary in 2002. My brother’s blog. Then more pages about my brother, with whom I share a last name. Now it’s mostly me. As I slowly do more on the internet, there is more of me spread across it.
In ten years, maybe not even, SA will be making their own mark on the internet. In twenty they will be a person on it in their own right, fully formed and completely autonomous. My friends’ children–my theoretical unborn children–will not just be digital natives the way I am, they will be digital creations, digital lives. In spite of what they tell me, I am an immigrant. My childhood has been, in small bits, retroactively added to the internet. I spent my formative years on it, growing, leaving marks, but I was not raised on it. I was not born into it. SA is a digital native. Ivy is a native. Lorelei is a digital native. The children whose births we can see online, whose parents blogged about pregnancy and took pictures that they posted as the weeks went by and they grew.
Those are the digital natives. And they’ll never be able to escape it. It’ll be as much in their blood as WG says post modernism is in his and mine. It’ll be in their blood the way love is in my mother’s and rebellion is in my father’s. It’ll be something that becomes so inherently a part of them, they don’t notice it was every any different.
(1) This image is me as a baby. I look more or less the same.
(2) I’d like to welcome all hundred of you who show up each week.
(3) Photo by Eric Fleming, CC-BY.