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Facebook In Utero: What’s on your unborn baby’s mind?

 A few weeks ago, it came to the world’s attention that expectant parents can list their  unborn children on their Facebook profiles. Whilst the more nostalgic amongst us  might not be quite ready to throw our “We’re Expecting” notelets away, “Expected:  Child” is undisputedly a quick way to get the message across to everyone in your network.

Facebook have suggested that this new addition is a reaction against the illegal profiles people have been creating for their children (users have to be over 13 before they are legally allowed to create a profile). Look no further than this extraordinary screenshot here  to see the problems that can occur when the rules are ignored.

With this in mind, it seems that Facebook is trying to exercise control over already established social media behaviour. Despite their “over 13’s” policy, an estimated 5% of babies have a social media profile and almost half of British children between the ages of 9 and 12 have a Facebook profile. 

Clearly social networking is appealing to a younger audience, and the more users Facebook accumulates, the more underage children who aren’t allowed to join feel like they are missing out. Now it seems that pregnant mothers don’t want their babies-to-be to be left out either.  By allowing parents to create a profile for their baby, Facebook are acknowledging that their “over 13’s” policy is being ignored and that they are taking control of the reigns again.

In the world of social networking where relationships are announced, photos of intimate gatherings are uploaded, and status’ reveal the trials and tribulations of everyday life, is this latest addition to Facebook really a big deal? I think that for those of us who feel it is a step too far to put an unborn child on a social networking site, it is because one feels the innocence of the child is somehow compromised. The child is not in control of the pictures that are displayed on behalf of her, or who is in her network. If a baby can have an online existence before it has been born, in a way, her parents have already assigned it a character or personality, especially if the parents interact with other users comments on behalf of the child.  At present, the expected child cannot have a full profile created by its parent, but their name, due date and scan picture can be added. It surely follows that from a very young age such a baby would be introduced to Facebook and the online profile and comments that existed before she did. In such scenarios as the absurd case of the “unborn child Facebook argument” linked to above, this could surely lead to some disturbing revelations.

As far as Facebook is concerned, it helps them to curb the creation of illegal profiles. It also gives them a chance to compete with the arrival of Google+ and its “family circles” by promoting the family unit. I expect that a big plus of the whole thing is that it enables Facebook to target advertising at expectant parents. The site has come under fire multiple times for using members’ personal information to make relevant adverts pop up whilst they are using the site, and it is more than likely that those who advertise their pregnancies on their profiles will be subjected to banner ads about nappies and strollers.

All in all, being able to put your unborn child’s profile on Facebook is not a big deal. Technology is moving so quickly thatassigning your unborn an online profile is arguably no great leap from putting all the details of your own life online.  Facebook have seen the writing on the wall and know if they don’t do it, one of their competitors will. The money that can be made from targeted advertising is a massive incentive in itself, and if the targeted advertising works well for Facebook, I expect pet profiles won’t be far behind.

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