WHITNEY: Millenial moms create cyber spaces for kids

Are you following me online? Are you following Olivia?

We’re both on Twitter. I’m @whitneymae and she’s @oliviambuffa. We each have our own email addresses.

Before you roll your eyes, know that Olivia and I are in good company online. According to a recent study conducted by Gerber.com, “close to 40 percent of moms aged 18 to 34 created social media accounts for their baby before the child’s first birthday — and another 7 percent made one before their kid’s second birthday.”

I secured Olivia’s Twitter and email accounts sometime around her first birthday.

It was one of those late-night ventures in silliness to which I’m prone. I read an article about a father who had committed to never posting any pictures of his daughter online as a means of protecting and giving her full control of her image. He also registered her name across a bunch of social media accounts with the intention of giving her all the passwords when she was old enough to take the reins in shaping her online presence.

So I did the same, right then, in something of a fever pitch. Other parents have different motivations for making online accounts for their kids. One woman, who spoke to today.com’s Parents site, said she wanted to avoid overwhelming her followers and friends with pictures of her son, so she created an Instagram account devoted solely to him. Another mother, who gave birth to extremely premature twins, set up a Facebook page for them when they were in NICU. She used it to update family and friends on their condition and continued using it as they grew into healthy-if-not-treacherous toddlers.

My motivation was more about control.

I started using whitneymae as an online moniker in college, making a conscious decision to omit my last name because I figured it would change in some way if/when I got married. But there is another Whitney Mae someone out there in the world (I think she’s British), and she and I are competing for username rights across social media platforms.

“I don’t want that to happen to Olivia,” I thought as I blinked blearily at the computer and logged her in to a few accounts of her own.

Then I did nothing with them. I never emailed her and her Twitter account sat silently in cyberspace. Until she started talking in real life.

Suddenly I felt compelled to commit some of her funny mispronunciations and first utterances to memory. I thought first of carrying around a little pocket-sized Moleskine notebook so I could write it all down, but then I remembered the Twitter account.

I manage her account and mine with the Hootsuite app on my phone. It’s usually nearby and more practical than reaching for a pen and paper every time she babbles. The chronological timeline of tweets makes a great marker of development, too. I can scroll down and see when she mastered the pronunciation of doggy, and when she started combining words into sentences. And there’s plenty of comedy gold to be found. For example, this tweeted comment from Oct. 13: “When presented with a ‘healthy’ breakfast cookie: ‘Is poop? Wipe cookie?’”

I’ll count that one as another win for millennial moms. (On a side note, I want to give a shoutout to the crew at Wright’s Bakery as they close their wonderful business after nearly 60 years in downtown Reed City. Without their triple chocolate chunk cookies [and their date cookies, and their sugar cookies, and their napoleons], the gestation of Olivia Buffa would not have been possible. While pregnant and making my weekly crime-beat rounds in Reed City, I never missed a trip to that bakery and always appreciated the ladies’ encouragement to buy as many cookies as I “needed.” Thanks for your service, Wright’s! You’ll be missed dearly.)

Whitney is the Pioneer’s parenting columnist. After four years reporting and editing at the paper, she’s stepped back to spend more time with her family. Read more here each week and reach her at whitney.buffa@gmail.com.