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.

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