By Daniel Bates
Make way for a generation of digital youngsters: Study shows new babies are online before they’re even born
It seems the tradition of visiting newborn babies armed with presents and flowers is coming to an end.
A new study shows friends and relatives are using something far more convenient for their first glimpse of a baby: the Internet.
More than eight out of 10 babies have an online ‘life’ by the time they reach the age of two, it reveals.
Such is the clamour to use new technology that parents are uploading pictures of their newborn children, opening Facebook accounts for them and posting antenatal scans before they are born.
Some 4 per cent of parents give their baby an email address, even though it will be many years before they can type.
Setting up an online profile for a child so young means they will be encouraged from the cradle to spend a significant part their lives on the Internet in some capacity, experts say.
They urge the need for caution and warn parents to be careful about what they published as the child would be too young to voice its own concerns about privacy.
The study covered 2,200 mothers in the UK and eight other industrialised countries and was carried out by computer security firm AVG.
It found that in Britain 23 per cent of babies’ online presence begins before they are born when their mothers publish their sonogram pictures on their social networking sites.
Some 37 per cent of mothers have uploaded pictures of their newborns. By the age of two, 81 per cent of mothers will have uploaded photos of their babies.
Some four per cent of babies will, thanks to their parents, have an on-line social networking profile with a site like Facebook or MySpace.
The trend is even more advanced in the US where 92 per cent of mothers have uploaded pictures of the children on the Internet by the time they are two.
Some 34 per cent have uploaded antenatal scans pre-birth and six per cent have created a social networking site for their baby.
American mothers were asked what motivated them to do this and a worrying 22 per cent said they did so simply to add more content to their own social networking pages. Some 18 per cent said they were just following their peers.
AVG chief executive JR Smith said it was ‘shocking’ to think that almost all children will have been online their whole lives, a presence that will continue to build as they grow up.
‘Our research shows that the trend is increasing for a child’s digital birth to coincide with and in many cases pre-date their real birth date,’ he said.
‘A quarter of babies have sonogram photos posted online before they have even physically entered into the world.’
‘First, you are creating a digital history for a human being that will follow him or her for the rest of their life. What kind of footprint do you actually want to start for your child, and what will they think about the information you’ve uploaded in future?
‘Secondly, it reinforces the need for parents to be aware of the privacy settings they have set on their social network and other profiles.
Otherwise, sharing a baby’s picture and specific information may not only be shared with friends and family but with the whole online world.’