Online Tools Help You Twitter
From the moment Carmen De Jesus started getting ready to go to the hospital for the birth of her son, Phoenix, her friends and family were with her each step of the way.
It didn’t matter that some were in the Philippines and the United Kingdom. Through her cell phone, De Jesus broadcasted a steady stream of updates about the progress of her labor: “4 cm dilated and uncomfortable,” she tapped the morning of July 15, 2008.
“Pretending ice chips are foods.”
De Jesus, a 34-year-old mother in Alameda and digital marketing strategist, used the microblogging service called Twitter. It lets users send a message that are 140 characters or less to a group of people en masse through a text message, instant message or the Web.
It’s one of many tools parents can use in today’s digital age to keep friends and family almost instantaneously in the loop about their children. Cigars, printed announcements, even emails are so yesterday. Nowadays it’s all about blogs, photo-sharing sites, online baby books and social networking sites such as Facebook.
“Every thought that I had, I wanted to share,” says De Jesus. “I wanted to document it so I could remember the experience.”
Plus, it meant that her friends could respond and support her from outside the hospital.
“Every time my phone buzzed, someone was cheering me on,” she said.
The beauty of such high-tech services is that moms and dads can alert people far and wide about their child’s latest development all at once and in just seconds. Their friends and family, meanwhile, can opt to stay tuned at their own pace. The downside, of course, is that not all their friends and family may have adopted the technology. Parents also have to determine how comfortable they feel about sharing information about their child online.
Julie Petersen used Facebook, the social networking site, to let her friends and colleagues know about the birth of her son, Zachary, now 4 months old. Just a few hours after he arrived, she and her husband posted the news from their cell phone, updating their Facebook status to announce: “Troy and Julie have a son! Zachary James, 7lbs. 11oz. and 21 inches.”
That news was then immediately disseminated to her connections through Facebook’s customized news feed. Soon after that, Petersen’s Facebook profile filled with well wishes from her friends, who posted messages on her Facebook wall.
“It was really convenient for us,” she says. “It was a way to let a whole bunch of friends and co-workers know all at once. We were able to kill a bunch of birds with a couple of stones.”
Petersen, a 32-year-old mom in San Leandro, estimates that 50 to 75 percent of her friends are connected to her on Facebook, including high school and college buddies she doesn’t regularly keep in touch with but who are interested in hearing about her and her baby.
Petersen also sent an e-mail announcing the birth. But she found that it took more effort since they had to boot up their computer and connect to the hospital’s wireless network.
An Online Baby Book
Even now, both De Jesus and Petersen use Twitter and Facebook to keep their friends and family up to speed on their children’s growth and latest adventures. For instance, Petersen disclosed on Facebook that she was avoiding coffee and dairy because her son seemed sensitive to it. It turned out several of her friends had similar experiences and offered her advice.
Twitter has similar appeal. Parents who want to get on board can sign up and get started in minutes, and share ideas, plans for playdates and updates on a child’s development.
Simply put, Twitter, which has about 4 million users, is about broadcasting short messages to your audience, instead of typing and sending it over and over again to each friend.
On Twitter, you create an online profile and invite your friends to follow you. You can let your friends know what you are doing via text message on your cell phone, an instant message online or directly on the Web site.
With social networking like Facebook and MySpace, you create an online profile and connect to your circle of friends. Through your profile, you can share your hobbies, favorite books, movies and music, photos and other personal details. You can also keep your friends apprised of your current status or mood.
On Facebook, a social networking site with about 175 million users, you can also add applications such as Babybook, which lets you set up an online profile about your child so that you can share your child’s hobbies, favorite books, movies and so on.
In recent months several new sites, including Totspot, Kidmondo and Lil’ Grams, have sprung up that cater to parents who want a dedicated place online to share information about their children. Similar to a baby book, you can use the sites to chart your child’s growth and milestones, upload photos and videos, and keep an online diary that your invited friends and family see. In some cases, you can even pay to turn your digital baby book into a printed one.
Blogs and photo sites
Of course, you can also set up a regular blog, which you can use not just to record your baby’s latest antics, but the rest of your personal life as well. You can start a blog on several free sites, such as Blogger, Vox and Wordpress. Once you sign up, you can customize your blog’s design and begin typing away.
If all you want to do is to share photos or videos, you can turn to a host of photo- and video-sharing sites. On Flickr, you can upload photos and video clips, organize them into albums and share them with your friends. Snapfish, Shutterfly and Kodak Gallery turn your digital photos into prints, cards and other personalized products. Some photo sharing sites, including Flickr, limit how many photos and videos you can upload before you have to pay a fee. Others, such as YouTube, regulate the length of the video you upload to the site.
In almost all cases, you can decide how open you want to be, either opening the door for the public or limiting it to your close circle of friends. In the latter case, your friends will have to sign up with a user name and password, even if they don’t plan on taking advantage of the services themselves.
Several of the sites also partner with one another so that their services are integrated. Once you have uploaded your photos on Flickr, for example, you don’t have to upload them again if you want to include one or two of them on your Vox blog – you just give permission for the two sites to share your information and then pick the photos you want to post on your blog. You can also link your Facebook and Twitter account so that your latest “tweets” become your latest Facebook status update.
It’s a whole new world for parents.
Ellen Lee is a freelance writer and mother of a 7-month-old daughter.
Online Baby Books