Wednesday, October 7, 2009

MEDIAPOST: The Wonderful World of the Digital Daddy

I have officially entered a new phase of my life; the Daddy-phase (and I love it)! I am no longer in the core 18-34 single male demo (actually a couple of years past it as evidenced by the growing volume of grey hairs on my head) and I’m now part of a family household with “1+” children and it makes an amazing impact on how you view the web!

First off, the web has transitioned from a purely personal entertainment and work-related information source to a babysitting tool. When I run out of things to do with my 5 month old boy I find myself moving to the web to occupy his attention. There are hosts of videos and websites at the touch of a mouse click to help me teach him the basics. The only frustration that I’ve encountered is how hard is it to find the old cartoons I loved as a kid. Are they no longer cool? Will my son like them or do I need to just move on and watch the new classics? I‘ve always considered myself something of a traditionalist when it comes to cartoons and Disney was always the home to my favorite characters, alongside the Cookie Monster and Curious George of course. I find it difficult to locate those old cartoons and the brand sites don’t make it easy so I have to spend my time trolling YouTube to locate the traditional classics that I loved and want to share with my son. It got me to thinking; maybe my old Mickey Mouse cartoons are out of vogue and it’s time to give my full attention to Hip Hop Harry, Bob the Builder and the gang from Toy Story (though I do have a fond place in my heart for those little guys, too). I’m not quite ready to give up my dreams of bonding with my boy, so YouTube it is, at least for a little while longer.

I also find myself thinking that the web is full of content not-so-safe for my little boy’s innocent ears and eyes. I started to research all of the tools for censoring and managing what he sees online. Did you know how many special browsers and plug-ins and applications there are for creating a safe-web environment for my boy? I hear about special web browsers for kids and special twitter plug-ins that allow me to manage who he follows and who follows him (though admittedly he won’t be on Twitter for some time and I don’t think it will be worth a billion dollars when he does use it). I feel there’s a whole new world of technology and gadgets which I need to understand, but I also feel as though there’s a world of scams out there designed to suck the money from my wallet. There are courses and books and programs to register for and all of them cost money! As if raising a kid wasn’t costly enough, now there’s a whole economy around scaring me into paying them to help me out! I wonder how my parents would have handled the web and whether their efforts would have made me safe.

The web has also become a social education tool for me, far beyond that of any parenting group or medical resource that my parents might have had at their disposal. Why read a big book when I can get what I need within 5 minutes! Is that rash on his leg normal? Check! Is it normal for my kid to want to put everything in his mouth and then make himself gag? Check! If my kid sits in the car seat, falls asleep and his head is in an awkward position will it fall off? Nope! All of these are standard questions apparently because a quick perusal of the Google search results returns the answers for every question I ask; word-for word. At the very least the web helps me to feel like my wife and I are not alone and that all of our stupid questions are not really that stupid after all! It seems as though everyone thinks about the very same things, which is solace in a world where the directions are foggy at best but the joy is in the journey, not the destination.

Being a father has quickly become my favorite hobby and the web has become an invaluable resource to help me make the most of these days and weeks and months. Of course, the entrepreneur in me will surely come up with ten new business ideas before my son is one year old; maybe I sense my son’s future nest-egg in the making!

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