In a connected world, where even a nuanced word association can invite unfortunate behavior, 21st Century parents need to keep an eye on the online names that children use. The easiest solution is to use a word, nickname, or a middle name, perhaps paired with numbers at the beginning or end. Many years ago I used 29Marti1607, a name that attracted little attention except once when someone asked me if my ancestors had lived in colonial Jamestown (settled in 1607).
Children experiment with edgy screen names as one way to look and feel cool, and as they get older their choices often push limits, unintentionally drawing attention. A suggestive name in any number of categories can encourage the people who interact with your child to behave impulsively — even friends. Parents need to worry less about strangers seeing and using a screen name and more about a 21st Century kid using a screen name that contributes in some way to humiliating or embarrassing behavior.
And of course, screen names, like everything else in the connected world, leave digital footprints (and digital footprints do not go away).
A Few Screen Name Tips
- Make the screen name boring with names or words and numbers.
- Avoid words that allude to sex and gender, and even descriptive words that may seem insignificant.
- Watch out for words that unintentionally convey personal information — the name of a sport, sports team, or a favorite vacation spot.
- Maintain privacy by using screen names that do not give away a child’s location — names of towns, cities, parks, monuments, schools, and other locations.
- Choose words that don’t reflect intense emotion, violence or those that name weapons
Screen names have power, so help your children make safe and sensible choices.