Whether you are having your third child or are a new parent, social networking via the Internet can be a good idea. Besides sharing with others who are as pregnant as you or whose child is the same age as yours, you can find helpful advice from others who are walking in your shoes.
About Social Networks for New Parents
Parenting social networks are websites dedicated solely to raising families and all of the issues involved in doing that. Even though forums or message boards are the biggest draw, most of these sites are broken up into a variety of areas with each one geared toward meeting the needs of new and not-so-new parents:
- Chat rooms
- Various types of pregnancy and ovulation calendars
- Various calculators for predicting a child's growth, pregnancy weight gain and due dates
- Product recalls
- Baby name finders and polls
- Immunization schedules
- Photo galleries
- Special news reports regarding families, pregnancy and parenting
- Quizzes, checklists and worksheets
But there really is more to parenting networks. The women who frequent these sites (sure, there are some men who do too) are looking for many things, from friendships to finding a good deal on diapers, and everything in between. Some of the more popular networks have several million registered users who visit the boards at least once a day to discuss a variety of topics including:
- Child birth
- Breastfeeding/formula feeding
- Children's milestones and development
- Childhood illnesses/disorders
- Single, divorced or widowed parents
- Deployed and military spouses
- Work-at-home moms vs. work-out-of-home moms
- Marital relations
- Cultures and customs
- Finding a good daycare or preschool
- Health, medicine and weight loss
And the list really goes on. The main point to remember is that parenting websites don't just talk about child-rearing. Everything that goes on in a parent or child's life is fair game.
Besides the wealth of information you can get from a parenting network, you can also make a friend or two. Today's chatting via the Internet is comparable to the previous generations' talking over the garden fence. Now, you don't need to leave your house or even get dressed to talk to your friends. You don't even need to pick up the telephone. All you need to do is login to your favorite parenting site, instant messenger or e-mail and you will be touch with your online friends.
And for new parents, these individuals can be a Godsend, especially when you are tired, snowed in or have a sick baby at home. Online friends form special bonds. Many have been together since they got their positive pregnancy tests and have gone through all of the ups and downs of those long nine months. These same online friends were some of the first to hear about the baby's birth (and received pictures too) and all of the milestones, illnesses and concerns associated with that same child.
That's not to say online friends replace "real life" ones. Most don't, but it is nice to meet other parents whose children are the same age as yours, again as a way to share stories. However, if you find yourself being more concerned with what is going on with your online friends than your real-life ones, then you may need to take a step back into reality! Online friends are just that -- individuals who, just like you, are sharing themselves and their lives with virtual strangers around the world.
Is New Parent Social Networking for You?
The only way to find out if meeting and chatting online with other new parents is for you is to try out a few of the parenting networks.
Babycenter.com is one of the largest parenting social networks on the Web with more than 3.5 million registered users worldwide. The site's forums are its biggest draw, boasting several hundred different message boards, including:
- "Over 35 and Trying"
- "Large Families"
- "Losing a Family Member"
- "Helping Shy Children"
- "Women's Fitness"
- "Widows and Widowers"
- "Military Families"
The website also has its own baby store, as well as a chat room, list of blogs and various other reference tools new parents may find useful. Babycenter has been around since 1998 and is owned by Johnson & Johnson.
Concerns About Parenting Networks
For new Moms and Dads who may not be Internet savvy, there are a few things to keep in mind when joining a new parent social network:
- Be careful of sharing too much personal information such as last name, where you live or where your children go to school.
- Be discriminating when posting pictures of your children. Many of these sites can be viewed by the public; you don't want your child's picture "stolen."
- Unlike real life, it is very easy to hide your identity behind a screen name while online. Many people can falsify or exaggerate information about themselves.