A recent article in the New York Times wrote about new sites that provide social networking for babies – kind of like Facebook for minors. I wrote to an internet parent group I belong to to see if anyone had tried it. Some people said they had set up blogs for their children (allowed invited readers only) but no one had tried these sites.
I decided to take a look. I signed up for two sites, totspot.com and kidmondo.com.
Kidmondo was sleek and had a lot of tools (like growth charts and a dental record), but I had some difficulties with the process and I felt the emphasis was on eventually selling me a baby book. I like that a baby book is available – it allows a child’s first year to be recorded just through the day to day updates a parent provides to friends and family, but I’d rather that be an available service rather than the focus.
Totspot also had it’s glitches in starting up. But I liked the easy to access feedback form on the bottom of the screen and the fact that they seemed to value receiving feedback. This made me think they were working to make it a site that meets the needs of parents. I also liked the kid-friendly color scheme, the answers to questions that parents might be concerned about, and the fact that I didn’t feel they’d be trying to get money from me anytime soon.
I spent the bulk of last weekend setting up River’s page – entering his firsts, writing his favorites, putting up photos and videos. I then sent a link to the grandparents to see what they thought. I wanted to know whether they preferred this format, which requires the initiative to log in and see what River is up to, or whether they’d prefer the bi-monthly link to photos online.
Mark’s parents have yet to try it. My parents gave it a thumbs down. Of course, they’ve never used Facebook, so they found some of the features difficult. By this point though, I’d spent so much time making the darn page I wasn’t yet ready to abandon it.
So I invited the rest of the family and friends. One week later, only a small number of those invited have followed through on the invitation. Even my husband hasn’t joined because he didn’t like having to register and provide personal information. Most of those who have joined are in their 20s and 30s, users of Facebook, and they seem to think it’s cool. Three of my friends already have pages up for their kids since I sent the first email. Even my parents, who gave it an original thumbs down, have returned to view updates and may be getting the hang of it. At this point, I’m enjoying seeing my child’s “friends’” (or the children of my friends) pages, so I’m probably in for the long-run.
So far, here’s my impressions of the pros and cons of baby social networking sites;
- It’s private. Only the people you invite can see your child’s information. And unlike Facebook, where you can sometimes click through to friends of your friends, you can’t on totspot.
- After the initial time investment involved in setting up the page, it only takes moments per day to keep it updated.
- The frequent updates allow people who care about the child to have a much more detailed glimpse into what is happening in their lives. This is especially useful for relatives who live far away.
- It is an easy way to store information for a future baby book or other record-keeping of your child’s life.
- Totspot sends an email when any child you are linked to updates their profile, so you have a reminder to come back and check when there is something new.
- The child-friendly tools, like the growth charts/dental charts/record of firsts are fun
- Having to sign in and register is a big barrier for a lot of people who already have a million user names and passwords.
- On totspot, for now, you have to upload your videos via youtube or another video service. This requires setting up an account there, and you have to make your videos public in order for the link to work. Therefore, while your videos don’t have a name or identifying information on them, they are no longer private.
- Unlike a personal blog, which you have more control over, you never know when the site owner may decide to change the format, limit stored information, etc.