The Only Parenting Advice You Need: Stay Off The Internet : All Tech Considered Every new parent gets lots of advice on how to raise their children. But is the internet a bad place to look?
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The Only Parenting Advice You Need: Stay Off The Internet

For some, the internet is the worst place for parenting advice. minxlj/via flickr hide caption

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minxlj/via flickr

For some, the internet is the worst place for parenting advice.

minxlj/via flickr

Dear Eyder,

I think that your baby girl is so cute! Five months old is such a perfect age. Here is the only parenting advice you need: stay off the Internet. The message boards are chock full of crazy people who will give you nutball competing advice, especially about sleep training, dangerous toys, and nursing.

Yours in sleep deprivation,


Dear Sara,

OK, OK. But isn't modern parenting all about knowing way more than you must? The Internet, for one, told me there is nothing to worry about if my dear child's poop is green. White means hospital, but green means perfectly happy stomach.

The pediatrician always seems dismissive and at least on the net, I can find other crazies that make my worries seem valid.

Plus, if there is one thing I've learned as a new parent is that everyone in the world (real or virtual) seems to give you advice about raising your monkey. An example: Cynthia, my wife, and I went to the supermarket to get Kalila some formula. As soon as the cashier scanned the first can, she looked at Cynthia and said, "20 dollars! Aren't you breastfeeding your kid?"

Feeling your over-advised pain,


Dear Eyder,

Sure, EVERYBODY wants to tell you what to do, but on the Internet they make a special art out of condemning you for everything from the kind of diapers you use, to the poison toys you let your kids chew on, to the way you put them to sleep.

The one I hate the most: CIO. That is online parentspeak for Cry It Out. As in "How could you possibly CIO when you know that it will damage your child for life?"

I do, however have a favorite bit of online childcare meta. It's an essay trying to explain why only 13 percent of the contributors to Wikipedia are women. The writer observes that if you look up a kind of ear infection kids get on Wikipedia you get a lot of scientific information, the kind of information that is, as she puts it, "tacitly gendered" toward men.

However, Wikipedia has no practical advice for helping your preschooler who has an ear infection. That's the kind of knowledge this writer says is more "tacitly gendered" toward women. For guidance (or condemnation) about getting tubes put in your kid's ears you have to go to a parenting site, the same place you go to figure out if green poop is bad ... or if CIO is really going to damage your kid for life.

I'm not big into gender stereotyping, but I do think that there are differences between women and men - or mothers and fathers. And I expect you to get up in the middle of the night when your daughter is crying about her ear infection.

Yours in overparenting,


Dear Sara,

When Kalila was really small, when I could carry her comfortably using one hand, she spent a couple of nights crying. Bleary-eyed at 3 A.M., I searched the web on my iPhone for an answer. Was it colic, was she cold or hot, could it be that she didn't burp quickly enough? Maybe, someone suggested, I could download a white-noise app and that would put her straight to sleep.

I remember Cynthia standing by the doorway, probably seeing the panic on my face, crying baby in one hand, the iPhone — or the thing that had brought me answers to everything mechanical, including why my dishwasher wasn't draining and how I could get robins to stop by my yard — in the other.

"Just put it down," Cynthia said. "Put it down and pay attention to her."

I don't even know why I would pick up the iPhone when my baby's crying. Maybe it's because in most others cases I can find a concrete answer fairly easily. It's a comfort that you can find affirmation of what you're thinking or saying. But parenting might be too human, too complex — or perhaps too simple — for the internet.

I guess what I am saying is — I think you're right, because that night, as soon as I put down the iPhone and looked Kalila in the eyes, she sighed and drifted off to sleep.