On a lot of mornings, Ericka O'Campo starts her day checking Facebook before her 2-1/2-year-old son wakes up.
"Sometimes I do get sucked into it a little too much and my husband will say that I'm a Facebook addict," said O'Campo, president of the MOMS Club of Bend, an organization affiliated with a national support group for moms. "But it's a way to connect to family and friends near and far."
The rest of O'Campo's immediate family lives in California, but when she, her husband and son have a day out on the town, she said, Facebook provides an opportunity for O'Campo's family in California to experience what she's experiencing in Oregon. Restricting who can access images and content connected to those moments, though, has increasingly become an issue.
"I have my settings so only friends can see what I post," the Bend mother said. "I'm cautious about what we post for safety concerns. I wouldn't post certain pictures of my son that I would be afraid somebody could take and turn into something else."
For all of the potential pratfalls, Facebook retains tremendous social and informational benefits, functioning like a new wave of Dr. Benjamin Spock books.
"We ask questions, I use it for resources," O'Campo said of her interactions with other digitally-connected mothers. "When my son was sick, I reached out to other moms to see (about) symptoms."
O'Campo said when her son wound up in the hospital, her cyberspace friends brought food and other creature comforts to ease the troublesome time.
But there's another part to all of this that moms need to keep in mind—what happens when their kids are old enough to use the digital tool as well?
"I do know 9-year-olds who have Facebook profiles," Sarah Laufer, a social media strategist and mother of two in Bend, said, going on to note that at that age, she'd be more concerned with helping to foster real-life relationships.
Laufer said she has friends who "are pretty loose" about sharing information on Facebook, but doesn't automatically see that as a negative—parents just need to "be thoughtful about how to keep (their) child safe online."
Addressing that sort of safety doesn't happen without discussion. And talking to children about what a family perceives as a proper way to interact online can prevent problems from developing.
"The amount of technology and the number of devices that we have, it's just a completely new ballgame for kids today," Dr. Elizabeth Daniels, OSU-Cascades assistant professor of psychology, said last week. "Frequently, educational efforts will encourage parents to have a media plan to enact in their family—so what is acceptable time usage, what are acceptable formats, what kind of monitoring is going to be going on, what sort of consequences are there for violating the family rules? It's a fascinating time right now."