Your Child’s Digital Identity Begins Long Before Birth

Claim your baby’s domain!

Written by Randi Zuckerberg

Posted on February 17, 2013

Should technology impact what you name your baby?

Screen Shot 2013-02-12 at 1.21.47 PMYou might be surprised to hear expectant parents say things (tongues firmly in cheek) like, “I wanted to name my child XYZ, but the domain wasn’t available, so we chose a different name” or “I need to make sure I can claim the Gmail address and Twitter handle for my child before we reveal the name we’ve decided on.”

Apparently, baby naming has become a cutthroat land grab, where mommies and daddies-to-be lay stake to valuable digital real estate before deciding on the perfectly Google-able baby name.

I used to think this was weird, but I now think that it is a perfectly acceptable and in fact, a responsible thing to do. Our names have always been the one major thing someone else decides about our identity, on our behalf.  And the internet now provides the opportunity for millions of additional people to gain exposure to that identity.  It’s what pops up when employers, dates, colleagues, friends, and pretty much anyone who meets us for the first time, searches for us online. Of course, we want to give our kids the best advantages in life possible, which means it’s now more important than ever to “own” your name (both online and offline).

While I’m not a fan of naming your baby for a publicity stunt (there have been many examples of brands who have offered to pay parents for naming their children after a website or a video game) and recently, there was press about a couple who named their baby “hashtag,” not to be confused by the parents who have named their kids “facebook” and “like” in the past, I do think that there are a few things parents-to-be should consider when choosing a name:

Here are 10 ways to set your child up for online success, before they are even born!

1) Do a Google Search of the first and last name together – what results do you see? Is there a super high profile person with that name already, who will make it hard for your child’s name to rise to the top? Is there someone with that same name who has a lot of negative press, a criminal record, or an unsavory occupation? Many parents today want a name that’s unique enough to dominate Google search, while not being so unique that it’s just downright weird.

2) Do a Facebook search of the first and last name together – it used to be enough to just do a Google search, but today, you want to be thorough. So consider also looking on Facebook to see if there is anyone else with the same full name that you are considering for your child. This will enable you to scope out the “competition” for online visibility.

3) Secure your child’s name as a web domain – If you haven’t already done this, it’s a good idea to secure “yourchildsfullnamehere.com” for a few reasons. For one, it affects SEO and search results, which allows you to have some degree of control over your child’s online reputation. It leaves optionality for your child to use that domain later on. And finally, it prevents someone else from registering that domain.

4) Don’t just stop at .com – other endings like .co and .me are becoming increasingly popular, such that it’s worth it to consider purchasing those as well. If you can afford it, it’s worth the $10-20 per year, just in case you ever need them, or simply to prevent someone else from snatching them up.

5) If you have your heart set on a name, and the domain isn’t available, it’s ok. You might want to reach out to the person who owns the domain and see if they are open to selling it. If not, consider doing something that utilizes a middle initial, or potentially even a nickname.

6) Lay claim to your child’s name on email and social sites like Tumblr, Twitter, YouTube, Instagram, etc. Of course, they won’t be using these sites for many years, and of course, there’s a good chance that some of these companies won’t be popular, or even in business at all, by the time your child is old enough to use them. But in the age of social media, it’s just as important to claim these as it is to claim a web domain.  My husband and I registered an email address for our son as soon as he was born, and we use it now to email family photos and memorable moments so that the email account serves a bit like a memory journal or a modern day equivalent of a “baby book.”

7) But don’t Facebook or Tweet as them just yet. In previous posts, I mentioned that I’m not a fan of parents updating social networks on behalf of their young children. While it’s a good idea to reserve a Facebook, Twitter, etc. for your child, just let it be until they are old enough to create their own identities. You want them to be able to choose their own voice and not be embarrassed by things you’ve posted on their behalf, especially if those posts may turn up in their Google search results.

8) Try to make sure your child’s “online handle” is consistent across the domains you registered, the email address you secured, and the social media services you claimed. It’s important to give your child a “consistent” online brand. It might seem overly anal right now, but your child will thank you later on.

9) If you’re having trouble choosing the perfect baby name, consider crowdsourcing it online. More and more, I’ve started seeing people ask their online friends for baby name suggestions, or putting out a short list of their favorite names and asking friends to cast a vote. Of course, it’s still your choice at the end of the day, and you can absolutely choose to ignore all your friends – but who knows, you might get some fun and creative choices that you wouldn’t have thought of on your own. Of course, the skeptic in me also wants to caveat this with the fact that you need to be careful of “name-poaching” because there’s always the chance someone will say, “whatever you do, don’t name your kid XYZ,” when you’re secretly thinking that’s your #1 name choice…

10) Trademark your child’s name? For me, this one is going a *bit* far, but hey, Beyonce and Jay-Z did it! If you’re planning on having your baby become a world-renowned child model or start selling a line of products on QVC by the time they are six months old, well hey… Perhaps it’s for you, too.

And a bonus one for parents who are too nervous to choose. If choosing the perfect baby name has you riddled with nerves, there’s even an app where your unborn baby can choose, so they can’t blame you in future therapy sessions. With Kick to Pick, you hold your phone up to mama-to-be’s stomach and it shuffles through thousands of names until baby kicks, at which point the phone freezes on the chosen name. Hmmm….

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I’d love to hear your thoughts. Did you run a Google search on your kids’ names before you chose them? Would you let the non-availability of a domain name or an ideal email address affect your name choice? How important should these factors be in picking a baby name in the first place?

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