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We at Pregnancy.org are extremely fortunate to enjoy such a supportive community. Together we share in the journeys of those TTC, thrill with the birth of every new baby, and offer cheers for the mom whose toddler finally went poop in the potty! Along the way, of course we also share in one another's sorrows, offer encouragement to those that are going through a difficult time, either in the work, illness, relationships, parenting, or simply struggling. We find hugs offered freely and many of our members have discovered some true friends.
While we in no way wish to discourage this type of community (in fact it is our goal), at the same time we do wish to offer some basic internet safety tips for you to consider:
Never, under any circumstance, should you post your personal contact information on the boards. This includes full names, mailing addresses, & phone numbers or where you will be delivering. Please note that if this does mistakenly occur that hosts or site assistants are allowed to edit out the information immediately.
Just as in "real life", use caution about those you do share your personal contact info with privately.
Review your profile & signature for information that you may not wish to share with strangers. Examples, full names, city & state combinations, tickers indicating when you are going to be out of town, etc.
Use first names only for children and their photos
When meeting online friends for the first time (or more), make arrangements to meet in a public setting. Take along a friend or relative if possible. If not, then be certain to let others know where you are going, what time you are expected to arrive back home. Carry a cell phone if possible.
Always go in your own vehicle until you know the other person well.
Trust your instincts - if something doesn't seem right then it may not be. Know that we are willing to help out when we can but of course cannot verify each and every member's life story, hence making private boards rather futile.
Please understand that this does not mean that you should become overly paranoid or not enjoy sharing your family's photos, participate in online showers/gift exchanges, etc. Think of this as being akin to how you would act with people that are within your own hometown or neighborhood - perhaps other parents that you meet in a local playgroup or sports teams. Of course in those places, and many more -- from the mall to the local grocery store you meet & interact with strangers that eventually become acquaintences & a few even friends.
I've been involved in online communities now for approximately 10 years and have been blessed to develop many wonderful friendships - including many of you! I've witnessed many of our boards enjoy the fun of gift/card exchanges, been amused by the *travels* of board mascots, and loved the photos of those that have been fortunate to meet in real life -- either with their families or as a board reunion! The board reunions have all been arranged similar to a convention - held in places such as Las Vegas, Dallas, New York City, and Orlando, FL. All, thus far, have been great success with everyone looking forward to the next year's. Since so many of our members participate across the boards, perhaps we can eventually look at hosting a Pregnancy.org Convention - who knows!
Bottom line - stay safe, use caution -- but have fun!
With these tips in mind we'll continue to enjoy one of the best online parenting communities around.
Please feel free to contact me or nytewind at anytime if you have questions or concerns.
~Missy & Angelia