Owning your kids online: a child’s domain

Should you consider buying your kid’s domain name?

Think of it as an investment in their future, their name, their brand. After an online incident that happened this week, I’m glad I did.

Not everyone will agree.  66% of people polled in this article from 2010, felt it was absurd to reserve their childs Facebook or twitter name.  On Twitter it’s unlikely they’ll ever actually use their real name, so I agree some platforms aren’t as protective as others.

But consider this random online wake-up call:

The other day I received a comment on my website from my brother-in-law in Ireland.  It came from an email with his name built into it, for pig iron, let’s say the email was: info@johndoe.ie. I moderated the comment approved, linking it to my website. No harm done.

The next day, my husband who is a Realtor, received a bizarre request through his website, from a potential home buyer.  He flagged the name was an alias he remembered  a former troubled classmate had used, a classmate prone to distasteful pranks and cranks, more than 20 years ago.  The email attached behind the prank inquiry was the same email: info@johndoe.ie.  His brother?

Knowing his brother isn’t one to email a prank message, we deduced the prankster had bought his brother’s domain name: www.johndoe.ie and now had access to the email: info@johndoe.ie.  This empowers the prankster to email any of John Doe’s friends, business contacts, family members, etc., and engage in a false conversation.  It’s scary.

If the prankster wants he can also build a free website in John Doe’s name.

For as little as $9.99/year, I hasten to imagine my child’s domain name in the hands of a bully, former boyfriend or disgruntled school mate.  But posting on people’s walls and hacking emails is as regular in high school today, as writing on the bathroom wall 20 years ago.

Why target now?

This prankster first targeted my husband’s brother many moons ago. He repeatedly prank called John Doe and John Doe reacted, fuelling the bully for continued targeting.  This went on for a time before fizzing out — 20 years ago his tools were a series of phone calls and crude drawings.

We now live in Canada, have nothing to do with this person, and yet he felt compelled to comment on my website using my brother-in-laws name and sent my husband a false inquiry. Some people have nothing better to do and cyberspace makes it simple for a bully to target you or your children.

How and when to protect a name?

Little Jane Doe is born and there isn’t anything you wouldn’t do to protect her.

One way to do this in the online world, where tweens and teens are easily targeted, is reserving www.janedoe.com or www.janedoe.ca.

But I didn’t do this when they were born.  I did it when they were approaching middle school age and the age where they could be potentially maligned by someone in their peer group. Someone, not old enough to recognize the consequences of online nastiness and skullduggery.

By doing this, you reserve and effectively protect the child from someone; a stranger, a classmate, a potential bully, from getting entire control of their name.

It took less than five minutes to buy the domain names on a site like GoDaddy.  I won’t use them for anything.  If searched, they will remain a blank canvas for the girls to use, when they’re older.

While my girls haven’t begun to think about the future thumb-print they will leave in cyberspace, I feel secure knowing when the time comes, they’ll have some control of how their name appears in a search engine.

For more advice regarding online safety for kids, send me an email.

5 Steps to protecting your name online

Reserving your child’s domain name couldn’t be easier.

It can protect them in years ahead, as they navigate the murky cyberspace of their tween and teen years.

  1. Find a domain registrar you trust.  We like GoDaddy.  But there’s NameCheap and Name.com or domainmonster, to name a few.
  2. Most registrars will ask if you’re interested in several add-ons. They’re not necessary if you’re simply reserving the name for future.
  3. Canadian? I’d recommend .com and .ca. They’re the most commonly searched, but the value is really in the .com’s.  Some registrars offer a discount for multi-name buys.
  4. Purchase before middle school: To protect our children against potential peer bullying, we opted to reserve their names when they were about 11-years-old.  This is generally the age they’re regularly using internet and it pre-dates middle school and high school, where tech-savvy kids have the means and know-how to effectively manipulate an online identity.
  5. Leave the domain blank.  Don’t use your child’s name to post pictures and personal information.  It’s potentially harmful and can open children to online predators. Keep it private = Keep it safe.

This advice comes from me, a tech-savvy mom interested in protecting her kids online and sharing advice with parents, to help us all stay one step ahead.  Take the advice or leave it.  But stay safe!