The Mommy Blog Is Dead. Long Live the Mommy Blog

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We are moms, and we’ve come here to learn how to make money by being moms.

We are so very tired. When we leave this conference we will go to our jobs, our children, to a pile of dishes and toys strewn across the floor. But right now, we are sitting here, beautiful, taking notes, feeling feelings, learning how to monetize our identities as mothers. And we will do this through Instagramming, blogging, podcasting, Facebooking, working with advertisers, knowing our angles. We are preparing ourselves to perform motherhood with a hashtag.

“We call motherhood sacred,” she says. “We trap women into that sacred space. And they can’t even make money off of it?”

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Online Momming in the ‘Perfectly Imperfect’ Age

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Over the past year I’ve noticed a shift in tone among the mom-influencers I follow on social media. They’re fed up with feeling judged by other moms. Other moms — ordinary moms like me, it would seem — are full of negative feedback about their choices. But no matter, because these moms want to reclaim and celebrate their flaws. They’re #perfectlyimperfect members of the #motherhoodrising #mamarazzi and they’re sharing their authentic, unfiltered #motherhoodunplugged, #candidchildhood moments. There are nothing but good intentions behind these hashtags, but as I’ve scrolled through them, I’ve pondered the obvious question: This is supposed to be imperfect? Did someone move the goalposts and forget to tell me?

When Kids Realize Their Whole Life Is Already Online

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For several months, Cara has been working up the courage to approach her mom about what she saw on Instagram. Not long ago, the 11-year-old—who, like all the other kids in this story, is referred to by a pseudonym—discovered that her mom had been posting photos of her, without prior approval, for much of her life. “I’ve wanted to bring it up. It’s weird seeing myself up there, and sometimes there’s pics I don’t like of myself,” she said.

But it’s not just overzealous mommy bloggers who construct a child’s online identity; plenty of average parents do the same. There’s even a portmanteau for it: sharenting. Almost a quarter of children begin their digital lives when parents upload their prenatal sonogram scans to the internet, according to a study conducted by the internet-security firm AVG. The study also found that 92 percent of toddlers under the age of 2 already have their own unique digital identity.

When Ellen, an 11-year-old, finally decided to Google herself, she didn’t expect to find anything, because she doesn’t yet have her own social-media accounts. She was stunned when she found years of swim scores and sports statistics on the web. A personal story she wrote in third grade was also published on a class website with her name attached. “I didn’t think I would be out there like this on the internet,” she told me.

Ellen said that while she didn’t find anything too sensitive or personal, she was frustrated that all the information about herself had been posted seemingly without her consent.

Rediscovering My Daughter Through Instagram

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Social media has been blamed for ruining our democracy, shortening our children’s attention spans and undermining the fabric of society. But through it, I was able to be with Paulina out in the world again, to see what she sees, to virtually stand beside her and witness the people and places she moves through, in nearly real time. Not in a parent-policing role, but in a wonderful-world sort of way.

There were gorgeous landscapes from Orient on Long Island, where we’ve spent part of every August her entire life, lovingly captured with the title “My Happy Place.” Tender close-ups of Dean. A picture of her best friend bandaged in a hospital bed after a seizure last year. “I love you,” Paulina wrote under it. And photos of a trip we took upstate last winter, blue blue windows looking out onto the evening’s snowy landscape. It was the same view I had had, but perfectly archived for eternity.

Then there was the photo she posted of herself as a little girl among autumn leaves, wearing a checkered skirt, pink leotard and green high-tops.

“Wish I was still a little kid,” the caption read.

So I wasn’t the only one.

A small miracle of the App Age: I entrusted my children to a stranger – and they loved it

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In the grand context of human history, what we were doing was outrageous. Nearly everyone who has ever lived would only trust someone they knew to look after their children. But today it does not seem so unusual. People seem to have steeply increased their propensity to trust strangers. We rent out our homes to them, we get into their cars, we meet them for a drink on the understanding that we may be having sex later on (so I hear).

In theory at least, this is a good thing. Social scientists have compiled a mountain of evidence that what they call “social trust” – trust in fellow citizens you haven’t yet met – is the secret to a successful society. Countries with higher trust in strangers have higher economic growth, less corruption, and happier citizens. They have lower suicide rates, less chronic illness and fewer fatal accidents (the economist John Helliwell suggested that if France was as trusting as Norway, its traffic fatalities would be halved). Politicians often debate the best way to increase productivity or improve education. Few propose policies to raise trust. But maybe our smartphones are already providing the answers.

A Dark Consensus About Screens and Kids Begins to Emerge in Silicon Valley

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The people who are closest to a thing are often the most wary of it. Technologists know how phones really work, and many have decided they don’t want their own children anywhere near them.

A wariness that has been slowly brewing is turning into a regionwide consensus: The benefits of screens as a learning tool are overblown, and the risks for addiction and stunting development seem high. The debate in Silicon Valley now is about how much exposure to phones is O.K.

“Doing no screen time is almost easier than doing a little,” said Kristin Stecher, a former social computing researcher married to a Facebook engineer. “If my kids do get it at all, they just want it more.”

Ms. Stecher, 37, and her husband, Rushabh Doshi, researched screen time and came to a simple conclusion: they wanted almost none of it in their house. Their daughters, ages 5 and 3, have no screen time “budget,” no regular hours they are allowed to be on screens. The only time a screen can be used is during the travel portion of a long car ride (the four-hour drive to Tahoe counts) or during a plane trip.

Three Words for Digital-Age Parents: Access, Balance, and Support

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Here’s a given about being the parent of a young child—it’s exhausting. Mix in some unknowns like your child’s seemingly unnatural attraction to glowing screens, and it can be bewildering. What’s the right mix of apps and grass stains?

Here’s another given. There is no “correct” answer, and you’re probably too busy to read a 15-page research synopsis, like the Fred Rogers/NAEYC joint position statement on use of technology with young children. (Just in case you have the time, see http://www.naeyc.org/content/technology-and-young-children.) The document addresses many of the concerns and controversies involved with raising a young child in the digital age. Full disclosure: I was one of the many advisors to the document, so I know it well. Because you have laundry to fold, let me boil down the key ideas to three words:  access, balance, and support, or ABS. Just like your car’s brake system.