Is the rash on my 8 month old anything serious?
What immunizations should I get for my new born, and in what order?
As a new parent, how can I get my child to stop crying in the middle of the night?
Being a new parent is a struggle as it is. It is especially hard because taking care of a baby is no easy feat: you are in control of the wellbeing of another life. Is it possible to do it right? But more importantly, is it possible to do it right all on your own?
There really is not a straight answer to this question. It definitely is a lot harder to do it without the help and validation of a like-minded community. This idea aligns perfectly with the creation of Bulletin Board Systems (BBS). Bulletin Board Systems, as Martin Lasden explains, is a place where individuals (“users”) can access a wide variety of information that the specific server has to offer. That’s where New Parents Network intervened with their Bulletin Board System entitled NPNet (short for New Parents Network). The New Parents Network was founded in Tuscan, Arizona, where they maintained their home base through their expansion. The New Parents Network wanted to create a new Bulletin Board System specifically surrounding information vital/useful for new parents (have it be traditional parents, guardians, foster parents, etc.) and other family-related groups.
This Bulletin Board System first started in 1991 using its original code: (602) 326-9345 (the area code for Tuscan, Arizona). This BBS offered a wide variety of information for any parents who are trying to find more information on how to raise a child. In his article “Tech Notes; A Bulletin Board Built for Baby,” Glenn Rifkin talks about how NPNet offered information such as: immunization schedules, safety instructions for babies (baby-proofing), prominent symptoms and procedures to deal with conditions/illnesses common for babies, etc. One aspect of NPNet’s information that was especially useful for new parents was their ‘recently recalled toys and products’ section. Here, parents could stay informed and updated on any toys or products that had been recalled. While widespread news is much easier to access nowadays, this specialized information could be hard to locate in the 90s. So with NPNet creating a specific space for people to access this information constantly/whenever they wanted, it created a convenient and accessible information hub for this specific topic. NPNet also included a list of external resources to other helpful organizations, local support groups, and other lines that might be useful in contributing more or related information that an individual might not get from NPNet alone.
NPNet, along with many BBSs during this time, offered an interactive aspect. Users could be connected to other users of NPNet, where they could have individual, personal conversations despite the physical distance between the two. Much like how social media functions today, NPNet specifically connected other ‘new parents’ with each other, where they could exchange information they learned. In other words, NPNet created a community of new parents. Other users of NPNet included social service organizations, hospitals, etc.
While NPNet started in Tuscan, Arizona with a 602 area code, the Bulletin Board System was successful and well-known enough to expand to 7 different states: California, Texas, Oklahoma, Florida, Missouri, Tennessee and Louisiana. While users would still have to call the 602 number to access NPNet, they would then be transferred to the server that was closest to them, where they would have more access to specialized information about their specific area as well. In “New Parents Network…A Vital Parenting Information Network,” Ken Salois talks about how NPNet had plans and hopes to expand their reach to all 50 states, so that individual users would be able to call their state’s number and not have to place any long distance calls. NPNet also had plans to connect/collaborate with other organizations and social & service resources for even more information, but never really got to fully realize this plan. In promoting NPNet’s expansion plans, they emphasized the fact that their specific BBS didn’t take up much space, and could exist alongside other Bulletin Board Systems.
To my knowledge, NPNet as a Bulletin Board System is no longer active. Today, New Parents Network Inc. still stands as a nonprofit organization, offering many of the same things that their Bulletin Board System offered. Of course the nonprofit organization has updated alongside internet culture, but the heart of the NPNet BBS still remains: providing support, resources and validation for new parents all around the country. NPNet made it possible for new parents during in the 1990s to parent in a community of people doing the same, no matter the distance between them.
Lasden, Martin. “OF BYTES AND BULLETIN BOARDS.” The New York Times. The New York Times, August 4, 1985. https://www.nytimes.com/1985/08/04/magazine/of-bytes-and-bulletin-boards.html.
Rifkin, Glenn. “Tech Notes; A Bulletin Board Built for Baby.” The New York Times. The New York Times, June 28, 1992. https://www.nytimes.com/1992/06/28/business/tech-notes-a-bulletin-board-built-for-baby.html?searchResultPosition=1.
Salois, Ken. “‘New Parent Network…A Vital Parenting Information Network,’” December 30, 1991. https://www.goto10.fr/fidonews/1991/fido852.nws.