Parents want to keep their baby off social media

Adapted from a recent online discussion.

Question: My husband and I are expecting, and we would really like to keep our baby off social media. We obviously won't post pictures ourselves, and our parents agree with our preference. However, I'm not sure how we deal with other relatives and friends who might post pictures.

If it's only one or two here and there, I don't want to make a big deal about it, but I also don't want to set a precedent of being OK with it. Is there a way you suggest telling people our wishes without sounding controlling? I'm sure people will try to be respectful, but it's the first baby in the family, so everyone is also excited.

Answer: The best way not to sound controlling is to figure out what you most want and need to control, and to let everything else go - because if you're announcing expectations on Facebook exposure, sugary foods, preferred colors, acceptable toys, screen time, music volume, and shoes in the house (and you don't have special health circumstances to justify it all), well, you get what you get.

Pregnancy is a good time to form general priorities, because you have time to think while you await your baby's birth, but expect the reality of your child - and of the number of fronts on which your relatives and friends push back against your preferences - to force adjustments on the fly. Some parents end up adopting strategies that don't even resemble their original intent. The goal is to be flexible in setting priorities and focused in living by them.

So. Facebook. Mention to anyone taking the baby's picture that you don't want the photos online until s/he is old enough to consent to it. For those who don't hear this and post an image, ask kindly for them to take it down or change their privacy settings (assuming that's OK with you, that a just-family, closed group has access).

And, like I said, stay loose on the less-meaningful stuff.

Comment: When we sent an email announcing our baby's birth, we said that Baby was feeling a little shy and didn't want to be seen or mentioned for the time being. People have respected the request.

Comment: What we said was, "We are not posting pictures of the baby on Facebook, but we can invite you to see pictures on [fill in the blank]." This can be a dropbox, a blog, a password-protected site. We found a service specifically designed for that. This will let people know you don't want pictures posted while allowing them to see your little one, which is what they really care about.

Of course, my mother-in-law posted pictures on Facebook anyway after we specifically told her not to, and we had to ask her to take them down. Some people will truly not care what you feel about it, and you just have to roll with it.

Reply: The alternative means of sharing is an elegant solution, thanks.

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Chat with Carolyn Hax online at noon Fridays at www.washingtonpost.com.

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