My teenage children both asked me to pre-book them a .TEL name last week. On the face of it, it’s just a question of submitting the domain request, but the process turned into something a lot more long winded and raised some serious concerns around privacy, identity theft and spam.
The lighter side of the conversation was about the name itself. I assumed that they would want something simple like first name, last name. What came back was much more entertaining – at least to a 16 year old and his peers.
I tried to explain that what seemed like a good, humorous name now may not stand the test of time. As the conversation continued however, my view point changed.
It’s not that the suggested names grew on me, but rather the realization that I didn’t want anyone to be able to be able to look up their .TELs, even with the built-in privacy.
What emerged was a strategy that would protect their identities but allow them to use the .TEL with their friends.
Does a 16 year old need a .TEL name?
The easy answer is of course not. But then again, they don’t really need a cell phone, a plan with unlimited texting, a Facebook account, an e-mail address, a computer, Xbox Live account or any of the other bits of technology that many 16 year olds enjoy.
However, they really don’t need a .TEL name at 16. For the most part, their group of friends is relatively fixed and as a parent, I don’t want my son sharing information with friends met online.
However, it is new and it’s cool in a geeky kind of way, and I must admit I also didn’t see the point of Pokemon cards a few years back. My concern with getting him a .TEL name is that it doesn’t land him in any more trouble than Picachu would have.
What emerged from out discussions was a plan with some criteria. The plan was a little different for my daughter, who’s 18 and at university, but for the most part, the same criteria applied.
• Zero Information Leakage
• Zero Spam
• Transparent to Dad
• Extensible to adulthood
Zero Information Leakage
The first concern is that no information that reveals anything that might be used to cause harm would be allowed. To this end, the names we chose do not identify them to strangers. For my son, this was a nickname that friends would appreciate and for my daughter, her first name and last initial. On top of that, the only public information that will be available is the .TEL name itself and since this isn’t an identifier, it causes no harm.
Friends and family of course will be able to see phone numbers, gaming handles, Facebook profiles, instant messaging handles and so on, but only once they’ve been authorized to do so.
The .TEL is a domain name and is subject to the whois information being published. Individuals however may elect to hide the whois information, stemming any leakage of information.
One of the big fears about .TEL is that it will be a spam magnet. By making e-mail addresses public, there is the possibility that an e-mail address could be ‘scraped’ and distributed to spammers; however by not making any information public – or simply not publishing your e-mail publicly, this concern goes away.
Not too tricky as Dad is going to be have administrator access and will be able to ensure that everything stays secure. It may take a slightly longer discussion with my daughter to explain the benefits of this, but as a family, we’ve grown up with technology and have a good understanding about the balance between parental oversight and respect for privacy. As the kid’s knowledge and understanding of administration grows and Dad grows more confident of their abilities, Dad’s role will likely to become more one of technical support.
Extensible to Adulthood
It’s unlikely that my son will want to keep his name past the end of school. For this reason, we also chose a second, more staid name that he can use in his professional life. When he’s ready to transition, we’ll simply create a reference in the old name and point it to the new name. This will allow his friends to make the relevant updates and we’ll eventually retire the old name. For my daughter, we also chose a second name, so she has a choice should she want to transition in the future.
Yes, it’s a bit more expensive to maintain two names, but there are a finite number of .TEL names and our sense is that if competition for names is high, we’ll have invested well in getting our children good .TEL names for the future.
Final Thoughts on .TEL Names for Teenagers
I recently advised some friends not to get their 17 year old a .TEL name for use now. I did suggest considering registering a name that their child could use in the future, when she finished school. Since her name is quite unique, they can probably wait a bit and see how the .TEL develops.
Personally, I see the .TEL target market as the 24-35 group, but I have to admit interest in seeing whether the younger markets pick up on it. I’m still stunned by the amount of information young people seem to share about themselves on Facebook and mySpace.
.TEL is an address in a global directory and while it’s tempting for kids to want to be there, it’s important that parents take an active role in monitoring this and ensure that apart from known friends and family, their information remains strictly unlisted.
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