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Parenting: newborns to toddlers

The millennials who check domain name is available before naming baby, and would rethink if it isn’t

Compared to Generation X, millennial parents are far more focused on securing a personal online presence for themselves and their children, with some buying domain names for their future offspring

PUBLISHED : Sunday, 23 September, 2018, 8:30pm
UPDATED : Sunday, 23 September, 2018, 8:49pm

One in five of 1,000 millennial parents canvassed in a recent survey said they had changed – or thought about changing – their baby’s name based on available internet domain names.

This suggests that millennials – those aged 24 to 38 years old – understand the importance of truly “owning” a personal online presence, and are taking their children’s future digital identity into account when selecting a name. That’s according to Roger Chen, senior vice-president of Asia-Pacific for GoDaddy – the world’s biggest domain name registrar, with 17 million customers and 70 million domain names – which commissioned the survey.

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As an example, take fictitious parkerfuller.com. Parker’s parents can grow the site with family photographs or a blog “to share the family’s journey”. Then, some day when Parker is older, the site will morph into his own and he can use it as a professional platform.

GoDaddy’s survey, Chen says, indicates that “seven per cent of millennial parents bought their child’s domain name before they were born, and nearly 19 per cent bought their child’s domain name after they were born”.

It is an increasingly competitive world and millennials are reacting to it
Odette Umali

Their responses were compared with those of 1,000 Gen X parents (39- to 53-year-olds) also questioned. Gen X were less inclined to worry about whether the relevant dotcom was free; 48 per cent of millennials felt it important their offspring have an online presence early in life, compared to just 27 per cent of Gen X respondents.

My age puts me at the top end of that Gen X age group, and while the internet was conceived before even I was born, it had a long incubation and wasn’t delivered until the year my son made his world debut in 1991.

His dad and I picked his name based on family ties, carefully testing that it wasn’t going to be abbreviated to some ridiculous derivative, that it matched his surname and that nobody could make fun of him for it. A friend persuaded her husband that while Rosie was pretty, it didn’t work with a surname like Beak. Red Nose would have been miserable.

Two years later, when my daughter arrived, there were only 600 websites globally. My generation didn’t consider that an online presence might even ever be “a thing” – unlike millennials, 58 per cent of whom had a social media profile between 10 and 17, almost six times the proportion among the slow old Gen X brigade who did.

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There are several reasons why millennials may believe an online presence is so vital – important enough to have your own domain name. Many are looking at college and job applications years down the line; 48 per cent cited job seeking as a potential future use for their child’s website.

These people are much more comfortable online than older parents. The average child of millennials has 107 photos of themselves posted online before they can walk; one in two millennial parents pin that first ultrasound image to the intangible notice board of the web.

Odette Umali, founder of Gordon Parenting in Hong Kong, isn’t surprised by any of this. Millennials, she says, are very tech savvy, and this trend shows their “involvement and competitiveness” as parents. “It is an increasingly competitive world and millennials are reacting to it and thriving in it,” she says.

Chen says: “Millennial parents are native internet consumers; less than 4 per cent reported not having any kind of online [presence for] their children, as a way to digitally preserve childhood memories, as well as a useful tool into adulthood.”

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While it could be argued that an early online presence may serve as a useful tool to introduce children to safe internet use, it also needs to be screen-sensible, and therein lies the conundrum: a study last year suggested that children in Hong Kong spend more time in front of screens than their peers in China and the United States, exposing them to the risk of both mental and physical health problems later.

Millennial parents may be better placed than Gen X ones to manipulate the internet for their children’s futures, but they also need to manage their use of it very carefully.