Creating a Gmail Account for Your Baby Means You're Smart -- Not a Geek

We're expecting baby number three shortly, and as someone who is online all day long, I put a lot of thought into the future of digital media and kids. I've been trying to figure out the right mix of digital content, gaming, and gadgets for my two wee ones and now I'm thinking long and hard about whether these kids need to grab their Facebook, Twitter, and domains even before they're old enough to type.

Digital content is evanescent. Today's Tweet is tomorrow's fish wrapper, and the services popular today probably won't be popular 10 years from now. So what is a parent to do to safeguard your child's digital identity?

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First, build a few basic accounts for junior just so you can grab his or her name in the ether. There are few sure bets in the world of digital media, but Google/Gmail is one of them. So, go ahead and make a Gmail account for your little one, just so they'll have something they can use to contact Grandma and Grandpa when they learn to read and write.

This will also give you a way to ensure they get a cool email address (kasperdbiggs@gmail.com now versus kasper08supersk8tr@gmail.com) when they're old enough to log in. Think of a Gmail address like a home phone number. I'm sure you remember your original home phone number -- mine is burned into my memory thanks to almost 32 years of constant repetition. If you create a primary point of contact for the little ones now, it will be easier for them to ease into digital media in the future.

Are you planning on posting photos and other stuff as the kids get bigger? Why not get them a custom domain. I've set up domain names for both my kids -- basically their first and last names with a .com at the end -- and using services like Tumblr or Posterous you can set up a very simple sharing website accessible by friends and family. Creating a custom domain is a bit more difficult but not impossible.

First, go to a service like Namecheap.com and register a domain. It costs about $10 per year with discounts for longer periods. I registered mine for a few years, but feel free to take it a year at a time. Then create an account at Tumblr or Posterous and follow their instructions. This allows a sort of dumping point for content that isn't Twitter or Facebook.

Speaking of those services, should you create those accounts for your kids? Well, first Facebook only accepts kids 13 years of age or older. Parents can create accounts for their kids, but those dormant accounts could ring a few bells at Facebook, and you could lose the space. Twitter is a similar story. A dormant account could be purged or modified if the user doesn't log in and Tweeting in your kid's name is a bit weird. Why bother when Facebook and Twitter may not be the social media of choice when they're old enough to Tweet.

A good rule of thumb? Register and create accounts that you can control and that will be useful when sharing news and photos from your child's first years. Kids deserve to be able to build their own digitial identities, and believe me once they figure out what the Like button is, they'll take to social media like a fish to water. There's plenty of time for Tweeting and Facebooking in their teenage years, but a simple, regularly updated website for friends and family is priceless.

With all the talk of cyberstalking and online predators, parents want to play it safe. But these services do more good than harm in most cases and they're an important way to communicate these days. With a little foresight, you can pave your child's way in the digital world even before he or she is born.

Have you created any online accounts for your kids?

 

Image via Daquella Manera/Flickr

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