As a teenager, Jessica Wilson rebelled against her parents. She refused to tweet.
Parents are always looking for ways to position their children for success, from piano lessons to Mandarin immersion. In the Wilson household, that means encouraging the kids to express themselves on the Internet. Unlike parents who struggle to limit kids' computer use, Fred and Joanne Wilson want their kids to be comfortable with the latest in technology.
Courtesy of Wilson family
The parents and kids publish a combined nine blogs. They bring a duffle bag on family trips just to carry all the cords, adapters and batteries for their electronic devices. Mr. and Ms. Wilson, both 49, write almost every day on their blogs, which cover everything from financing start-ups and music (his) to entrepreneurs, family and the key to cooking a prime rib (hers).
Jessica, 20, and Emily, 18, have two blogs each; Joshua, 15, has one, plus two Xboxes. When Josh expressed an interest in building websites, his mom hired a graduate student to tutor him in coding.
Ms. Wilson, an avid cook, photographs most family meals for her "Gotham Gal" blog. "If you try to take a bite of your appetizer before she's taken a picture, you hear her say, 'Wait wait wait wait,' and she'll make you put it back," Josh says.
At times, the kids have resisted the push online. Mr. Wilson, a New York City venture capitalist whose company invested in Twitter, wanted Jessica to be a nimble tweeter. "I would tell her that it was going to be the next big thing," says Mr. Wilson.
Jessica refused to take part. "It was a rebellious thing," she says.
But now, as an aspiring photographer, Jessica sees a benefit to having her dad promote her work to his 173,000 followers.
The Wilsons are an extreme case of connectedness, but maybe not for long. Americans' media consumption keeps increasing, with smartphone ownership and social-network use growing fast. According to a study being released Thursday by the Pew Internet & American Life Project, 47% of American adults say they use at least one social-networking site.
The Wilson parents blog the old-fashioned way -- with words -- while the kids fill sites like Tumblr with photos. Stitch it all together, and you get a new-media portrait of a close-knit and connected family.
Courtesy of Wilson family
Mr. Wilson is a managing partner at Union Square Ventures, a venture-capital firm that has invested in companies such as Tumblr, Foursquare, Zynga and Etsy. He is on the board of directors at Twitter and Etsy.
His best-known blog is avc.com, which attracts about 250,000 unique visitors a month. While his focus is the technology industry, he sometimes mentions his kids: "For years I tried to get my girls to shop on Etsy. They just didn't get it. Then last spring my daughter came home from college and told me that she was 'addicted to Etsy.' ... Yesss."
In 2005, Mr. and Mrs. Wilson started a family podcast called "Positively Tenth Street." Sunday nights, the clan sat at the kitchen counter taking turns talking about their week and selecting songs. (In one episode, the family discussed power-cord compatibility and played "Waiting for the World to Change" by John Mayer.) Episodes were posted to a website the Wilsons set up, and some aired on a radio station in San Francisco.
"After a year and a half, my sisters said, 'We're done,' " Josh remembers.
"It's actually embarrassing," Emily says.
These days, Mr. Wilson occasionally posts links to his daughters' photograph blogs. He points out that in a Google search on "Jessica Wilson," -- a fairly common name -- his daughter's website is the top link. "Having her online portfolio first on Google could be very valuable to her," he says.
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Mr. Wilson is glad she has come around to Twitter. "In social media there is a tension between a desire for privacy and a desire for attention," her father says.
Jessica sometimes asks her dad to "reblog" photos she is particularly proud of.
"I use the same rule with my kids and entrepreneurs: If I think the thing they want me to [post] is consistent with the online brand I've developed and the audience I've cultivated, then I'll do it," he says.
Courtesy of Wilson family/Emily Wilson
Ms. Wilson started blogging in 2003, wanting to preserve a professional identity after she stopped working. She invests for the family in online properties and promotes women entrepreneurs, both on her blog and as co-chair of New York University's Women's Entrepreneur Festival.
"Gotham Gal" is a window on New York's tech scene, complete with downtown restaurants and adventurous travels abroad. But it's also very domestic. Last week, she wrote about a meal the family had to celebrate Emily's high school graduation.
"If she blogs a picture of me I don't like, I get very mad," says Jessica.
Ms. Wilson says she cares very much about her family's privacy. "I know fundamentally where you draw the line," she says. "There are plenty of things that happen that you just don't go there."
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Ms. Wilson says she has regretted only one post: She criticized another school mom for being overbearing. Ms. Wilson never identified the other woman, but when Ms. Wilson ran into her while getting her hair cut, the woman said she knew it was her. "Lesson learned," Ms. Wilson says.
People who hang out with the Wilsons a lot find their way onto Gotham Gal. When Emily's friend, Lizzie Noonan, joined the family on a trip, she was featured on the blog. "One of Josh's friends was like, 'I'm on it more times than you,' " Lizzie says. She replied, "'I'm just getting started!"
Jessica wants to be a photographer. She refers to one of her websites as her "portfolio," where she posts a few select images and her contact information. She blogs other photos she has taken, as well as images she has seen online, on Tumblr. She posts snapshots -- a lot of them -- on Facebook.
She knows her parents look at all of her sites and social-media pages. "I'm so active on Facebook, I don't think they can keep up with it," she says.
Jessica, a junior at Wesleyan University who will spend the next semester studying in Cape Town, South Africa, says she doesn't like her parents to write about her.
But she knows the value of having them promote her work. Her father reblogged her first-ever Tumblr post and within a few hours, 14,000 other people had reblogged it from his page, and 2,100 people had opted to follow Jessica's Tumblr blog.
She says she finally joined Twitter after a family dinner in which her mom cited a funny tweet sent out by one of Jessica's college friends. "I was like, 'Hey, he is my friend!' "
Emily, who will be a freshman at Wesleyan this fall, also loves photography. She maintains two blogs on Tumblr. One is for photographs she has taken of friends, family or street scenes -- images she showcases as her work.
On the other, she posts photos, videos or songs that she thinks are cool, like a photo she reblogged from another person's Tumblr page of a yellow car surrounded by the purple petals shed from a flowering tree. On Facebook, she posts personal snapshots.
Recently, Ms. Wilson posted on "Gotham Gal" about her daughter. "Emily is baking up a storm," Ms. Wilson wrote, sharing with readers the recipe for banana coconut cookies her daughter had prepared.
This upset Emily. "I want to be able to do the things I do in my life, then if I want to share it, I can, it's my choice," she says.
Josh is more a gamer than a social networker (his 1,000 Facebook friends notwithstanding). He used to play a lot of Zynga games on Facebook but has refocused on Xbox.
His dad often seeks his son's opinion on new websites and apps. "If I'm not busy, I try to do it within a day or two," he says. In the fall, he will enter his sophomore year of high school. He is an editor and reporter for the school newspaper.
Josh follows his favorite pro sports players on Twitter. On the rare occasions when Josh tweets, he tries to rib his parents. Last fall, he wrote, "With @fredwilson and @thegothamgal look for a man in a white and black striped collared shirt @fredwilson, find him you get a hug."
"My parents love it when I do stuff like that," he says.
For years, Josh has been asking his parents to buy a television for his room. But Mr. and Ms. Wilson have one limit on technology: no TVs in the bedrooms. "They don't want us in our rooms glued to the TV," Josh says. Of course, Josh notes that he can download programs to his laptop.
He says he ignores his mom's blog. "I try to refrain from reading her blog because then we don't have anything to talk about," he says.