Facebook Profile Before First Steps?

This week's New York Times Thursday Styles section had an article about websites that let infants and toddlers set up profiles...

It really is a brave new world.

This week's New York Times Thursday Styles section had an article about websites that let infants and toddlers set up profiles.

OK, so it is actually mom and dad setting up the profiles on sites such as Totspot, Odadeo, Lil'Grams, and Kidmondo. The sites seem to operate somewhat like on-line baby books: places to record milestones such as first solid food, first steps, and first tooth. Relatives interested in tracking these details can simply log on; the sites allow parents—and, eventually, the children themselves—to remember and reminisce.

But these sites are not without their dangers, the article notes:

...children whose relatives have traded minutiae about everything from their burp frequencies to the very hour they first rolled over may be, once teenagers, awed — or embarrassed — by the level of detail in their ghostwritten bildungsroman.

The author quotes John G. Palfrey, faculty co-director of Harvard's Berkman Center for Internet and Society, and Ess librarian and professor of law at Harvard Law School, on the sites' potential pitfalls. “Whether or not they realize it as such,” Palfrey says, “parents are contributing to their child’s digital dossier. And who sees that dossier later on may be of concern.”

Read more about Palfrey and his new book Born Digital, coauthored with Urs Gasser, in this article from the March-April 2008 issue of Harvard Magazine.

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