// what do you think?


Naming Your Children And Managing Their Online Identity In Age Of The Internet

I grew up with two names. My real name and the name everyone has called me my entire life. No Tac Anderson isn’t my given name, but it’s the name everyone but the Government and the banks call me. My real name is Andrew Golden Anderson II. I was named after my dad and instead of having two Andy Anderson’s my grandfather gave me the nickname, Tac. It stuck.

There are a lot of Andy Anderson’s in the World, there’s only one Tac Anderson. While my parents weren’t thinking about how searchable my online presence would be when they named me and neither was my grandfather, Tac Anderson has been a lot easier to get domain and account names for and search engine optimize for than Andy Anderson would have been. Working in the industry I work in, I’m really glad I have a unique name.

At some point over the years I started to wonder if parents would name their kids based on the ability to buy their domain names. When my children weren’t born I wasn’t worried about domain names. If I was having children today it would probably be a factor. Probably not the determining factor but a factor non-the-less.

danah boyd muses on this topic as her friends start to have children. Knowing that at some point in their lives your children will screw up. They’ll do something stupid big or small and it will be forever on the Internet. Is it better for your children to have a unique name or a common name? It’s a good question.

Let’s say that you decide to go the unique name route. If you get serious about “personal branding” for your children, how far should you take it?

Last year I bought the .com domain name (first+middle name) for my children (ages 12, 8 and 6). For my daughter (Emma Lorene) I especially thought first+middle was the right way to go so when she gets married if she decides to take her husbands last name she won’t have to go through the challenge of switching everything. I also went with first+middle because Anderson is too common of a name and in the case of my daughter and youngest son (Seth Jamys) we didn’t give them unique enough first names. My oldest son has a unique enough spelling of his name (Xzavier Corgan) that I was able to get the .org for his first name (the .com isn’t being used and I have a bid in for it) along with the .com for first and middle.

When my daughter turned 12 I set up a Posterous site with her domain name and hooked that up to Twitter and Facebook, both branded with her first+middle name. To be honest though she hasn’t done anything with Posterous or Twitter yet (I didn’t expect her really to) and is only occasionally on Facebook. But it’s all there when she’s ready for it.

When my boys get older I’ll do the same for them although my 8 year old is already asking for a blog so we’ll probably do that sooner than 12. Facebook I’m pretty set on waiting until their 12 (and yes I realize that Facebook’s T&C say 13). But by 12 they’re in middle school and most of their friends are already on Facebook.

When my daughter got back from summer camp this year and made some new friends my wife asked if she got everyone’s phone numbers. My daughters response: “No, we’re just all on Facebook.”

Some people go as far to start Facebook and Twitter accounts for their young children. My friend and coworker Eric Berto started the Twitter account @BabyBerto as a way to share updates about the pregnancy and birth of their child with their friends.

Conversely, Jay Dolan on Anti-Social Media ranted against parents who start Facebook profiles for their small and unborn children.

What do you think?

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Photo credit by pasukaru76

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About Tac

Social media anthropologist. Communications strategist. Business model junkie. Chief blogger here at New Comm Biz.

  • Anonymous

    Interesting post, Andrew Golden (I never knew!). I’ve actually been thinking about this for my kids, too. The particularly tricky one is my daughter, who has two first names (one that most of her family calls us, one that most everyone else calls), an African name that she includes in her signature, and then Person, which was added when I formally adopted her a few years ago. Have to decide which combination to use for a domain name!

    Another idea I heard some years back (suggested by Scott Monty, actually) is reserving an e-mail address for your kids when they’re young. YOU can use it to write e-mails to them in the early years, and then turn it over to them at the appropriate age.

  • Jenni hogan

    I love @babyberto!!!

  • http://twitter.com/SarahSchacht Sarah Schacht

    It sounds like your kids will never know the joys of an inside joke.

  • Anonymous

    I also have private Twitter accounts for my kids, which I use to post short updates about things they’ve done, funny stories, etc.

  • http://twitter.com/EricBurgess Eric Burgess

    Nice post Tac. You beat me to it actually! Acquiring my son’s handle/vanity url in every network available (facebook, twitter, digg, stumble etc.) and every email platform available (gmail, yahoo, live etc.) is something I’ve wanted to write about for a while.

  • http://www.theantisocialmedia.com/ Jay Dolan

    This is really interesting for me to read. I don’t have kids (yet), but I think there’s something inherently creepy about setting up a bunch of accounts and websites that may potentially never be used or used in a way that hurts my child.

    I’d never give my 12 year old a website linked to their real name. It just seems dangerous.

  • http://www.newcommbiz.com tacanderson

    Seems dangerous and ‘is” dangerous are two very different things. Researcher danah boyd http://www.zephoria.org/thoughts/ (sorry can’t find the exact article this morning) pointed out that children online are at no greater risk than children offline and that the level of parental involvement in your child’s life is a far greater indicator of a child’s safety than their online activity.

    There was also a recent article I came across via Boing Boing which compared parental fears versus real life dangers http://www.boingboing.net/2010/09/08/what-parents-worry-a.html. The fact is that my children are far, far more likely to get in a car accident (in the car or on their bike or skateboard and struck by a car) than they are to be assaulted by someone who reads their blog. In fact if they were to get assaulted chances are far greater that it will be by a family friend or relative.

  • http://twitter.com/nommo nommo

    Personally, as the father of two girls (13 & 11) - my eldest was supposed to wait till 13 before she set up Facebook as per the Terms & Conditions (and was begging for it - because some of her friends were already on there), but she set it up herself about 3 weeks early! Tsk - she was chastised. FWIW - neither of them got mobile phones until they went to senior school either.

    Kids and social media…

    Best comparison I can come up with is it’s like an adult sitting on a bus/train just after school and over-hearing details from the kids of who fancies who, who did what to who at the last drunken teenage party (and worse), they seem to take pleasure in saying it just that bit louder so that everyone on the bus hears it - not just their friends. You can’t help overhear!

    Same applies to kids & Facebook. They don’t care about, or understand the implications of ‘over sharing’… who might be listening, or how long that information will linger around… Which is why I am adamant that my younger daughter is not allowed on there until at least the min age.

    I still don’t use my full name much online - so I find it difficult to grasp why I would want to pre-register their socmed profiles or domain names. Am I just old fashioned?

    BTW - here’s Facebook’s thoughts on under 13 yr olds (from http://www.facebook.com/policy.php):

    No information from children under age 13. If you are under age 13, please do not attempt to register for Facebook or provide any personal information about yourself to us. If we learn that we have collected personal information from a child under age 13, we will delete that information as quickly as possible. If you believe that we might have any information from a child under age 13, please contact us through this help page http://www.facebook.com/help/contact.php?show_form=underage

    Parental participation. We strongly recommend that minors 13 years of age or older ask their parents for permission before sending any information about themselves to anyone over the Internet and we encourage parents to teach their children about safe internet use practices. Materials to help parents talk to their children about safe internet use can be found on this help page. http://www.facebook.com/help.php?page=937

  • http://www.newcommbiz.com tacanderson

    Thanks nommo, or should I say Paul. IMO I do think it’s a bit old fashioned and possibly naive. Before I even clicked through the email I was sent about your comment I already knew where you worked, your full name, the city you live in and your last several Twitter posts. The Rapporative plugin for gmail gave me all of that.

    And like I said in my post I’m well aware of Facebook’s T&C. They legally have to say that but I really doubt they’re going to delete anyone’s accounts, they quit doing that years ago. And if they do, so what? We’ll start another one.

    Like I told Jay, the real issue is parental involvement and education not hiding. And FWIW my daughter has had a cell phone since she was 10.

  • http://twitter.com/nommo nommo

    You can call me Paul if you like - Paul is actually 0wned by his employers though, nommo can say what he likes - nommo has been around on the net a lot longer too. I suspect the reason my name/employer showed up as being associated with my nickname is because I chose to release some information that connected the two ‘personalities’ fairly recently.

    The Rapporative plugin demonstrates my point really… people love to dig, some people just do it for amusement, just to be nosey or for a quick power trip - others for more sinister reasons (even if it is less common than people percieve it to be).

    Why make it easy for the less savvy?

    If you decide to go down the personal branding route (as you did) - you are fair game. But I will be waiting for my kids to make the decision about how they want to handle their on-line privacy. As for breaking the T&Cs - well - that’s a tricky one as a parent. There’s potential there for sowing the seeds of rebellion by reinforcing the concept that ‘rules are there to be broken’.

    I do feel that the way we are heading - privacy will be what you manage think about without mediating it…

    Maybe I have been reading too much John 12 Hawks? :)

    I have been asked to write some notes on privacy for a legal newsletter for primary schools, which is why I found this post particularly interesting.

  • http://www.newcommbiz.com/naming-your-children-based-on-available-urls/ Naming Your Children Based on Available URLs | New Comm Biz

    [...] few years ago I bought domain names for my kids and then wondered if we would start to see people naming their children based on available domain names and user handles on Facebook or Twitter. I even got some flack for bringing up this point though [...]

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