As if being a new parent didn’t already come with a thousand questions, now we have a bunch more. What does it mean to raise a baby in the new digital generation? Do I need to secure a website domain? Do I need an email address? Should I secure a twitter handle?
Technically you can do any of these things, the real question is, should you? There are pros and cons to both sides.
Domain names and handles are unique and as such once they are gone they are gone. The earlier you register, the better chance of snagging your kid’s name. You can purchase website domains and hold on to them until your kids are old enough to use them.
You can also set up the domain now to control what is posted to your own site. This way you are not at the mercy of the terms & conditions, or privacy issues that plague typical social networks. A password protected site can be a great way to host pictures of your family.
According to supply and demand, there will always be a need for more domains and more email addresses. Even today, you don’t need a .com site when you or your child could grab a .ninja, .global or .family. New domain extensions are being introduced every year. The same will have to happen for emails.
More importantly, there is COPPA, the Children’s Online Privacy Protection Act. If the internet had a license for use, this would be it. COPPA is the ruling that in order to advertise to children or sell their data, they need to be 13 years of age. That is why all the major services use this as a minimum age. When you sign up for an email address (Yahoo or Google) or a network handle (Instagram or Twitter), you need to attest that the user meets this requirement. This means that off the bat you need to input *your* age or lie that your young child is 13. Once your child does gain access to the account, the service believes them to be an adult and has full right to use their posts, sell their data and expose them to adult content.
For the record, both my kids are under 10 and neither has their own online identity. We did go the route of having our own family domain, which my husband and I use. The kids are welcome to use those email address as they age but, more likely, they’ll want something ‘cooler’ that their friends have. Many schools will also provide student email addresses that are COPPA compliant.
As with all parenting, there is no right or wrong answer. But the more you know, the better the decisions you can make.