How to choose an email for tweens

Author
Paul Banas

First of all, a confession. I am a shoemaker and my children have no shoes.

I’ve been working in the Internet since 1996, but my daughter, at 11, is clearly the last one in her class to get an email. Opening that Pandora’s Box is something that I push off month to month, day to day, hour to hour. Now, at long last, a teacher is requiring that all six graders have an email. It’s almost Halloween and we have not yet bowed down to the edict.

If you’re scared of email for your kids, there are surprisingly few resources. If you want them to play more games, there are a million walled gardens all willing to take your money. There are lots of filters for internet use, Net Nanny and Apple’s built-in parental controls among them. And, there are plenty of kiddy email sites that allow your infant a happy place to click on lots of letters without messing up the computer too much, and these progress up to age 8, 9, or maybe 10. But if you have waited until your daughter is almost 12 to give her an email, she will cry, as mine did, when you suggest she go to a site called Zilladog to access her email.

So, it’s a sorry state, but we’ll likely get her a Gmail account and monitor it ourselves until she is a bit older. I’m not overjoyed by this, but my baby is growing up.

Still, there are some parental tasks left to do, and first among them is choosing a screen name. There is nothing I could find online on this, except for one thin forum post on choosing a screen name. So here is what I’ve come up with as a guideline for my daughter:

1. No real names. She can use a nickname or some random word, but nothing that identifies her personally.

2. No ID that she’s a girl. So no girlygirl@gmail.com. This doesn’t surprise her at all for some reason and I’m happy I don’t have to explain why I’m being careful.

3. No years, like her birth year or the current year so that she isn’t marked by a certain era. Plus adding 123 after your chosen name is so AOL circa 1999.

Unfortunately, with over 2 billion internet users (Nielsen March 2011) and who knows how many on gmail, almost any combo of words is already taken until you get into phrases that are out of common usage.

Still, the rules are in place and we may have to keep searching a bit together. Otherwise, she can start using her new email : elephantupstaircase@gmail.com as early as tonight.

Popularity: 3%

Paid online access to New York Times – my opinion

Author
Paul Banas

As a publisher, I’m happy to see the New York Times take a real lead on paid content. I’ve always thought that the Web wants to be “FREE,” but everyone knows that anything that is always given away free turns into garbage. And that’s the road most print publications are on unless they change their model. The New York Times can’t continue to create leadership journalism as it watches home delivery and newsstand sales dwindle to those few remaining octogenarians who want the inky, bulky broadsheet hanging into their cereal (Full disclosure: I’m one of them). While Google AdSense can make publishers a few dimes and nickels each month, it’s revenue potential is way over-stated and decreasing. There has to be another way.

I love the NYT solution for the following reasons:

1. It provides a benefit and distinction for home subscribers. Part of this reaction is selfish, since I’ve subscribed since I lived in New York fifteen years ago. But it stands to reason that you promote sales by giving benefits to the people who increase your value as an asset. And, advertisers like to see paid subscription since it connotes involvement.

2. It allows people to get a little bit for free. They haven’t yet said how many articles per month you will get for “free” as a non-subscriber, but it’s at least ten, that should give you enough to read your favorite columnists or features every month. Beyond that, as with public radio, you really should be donating something anyway.GR CITY JAN 15 2010

3. It keeps the NYT open to Google and Bing searches. I always thought this was the way things should go. Allow the NYT to be searchable via search engines so people can find the best info online and perhaps discover the Times.

4. Most importantly, it still allows bloggers to tell the world about stories they find in the NYT, without resorting to copying articles wholesale. I often make a comment on an article, providing an interesting snipped with a link to the full article. The NYT will still allow this though clicking the link will count towards the monthly quota for unpaid users. This should help the New York Time get more readers while not destroying their model.

This is the system the New Yorker should use as well. It’s fun to send an great article to someone who is not a reader. It’s not good if someone is reading the whole thing on line while everyone else is paying. And face it, a new generation of readers is growing up and they are happy reading a book or magazine on an iPhone rather than a physical magazine.

Hats off to the New York Times.

Popularity: 1%

Top internet searches for kids identified – “Sex” and “Porn” near the top of lists

Author
Paul Banas

What were kids most interested in and curious about in 2009? Parents can tell a lot from monitoring internet searches, which may also alert them to possible topics they may need to discuss with their kids. On a more macro level, Norton has identified the top searches conducted by kids in 2009 through data from OnlineFamily.Norton, a free family safety service that parents can use to protect kids online.201001201707.jpg

Do You Know What Your Kids Are Looking For Online?

Norton looked at the top 100 searches conducted by kids age 18 and under and also broke down results by age and gender. Some of the top terms may surprise parents. “Sex” and “Porn” made it to the top overall search terms for both Teens group and “Sex” for the Tweens group. These terms should raise a red flag to parents if they haven’t had “The Talk” with their children about content that may not be appropriate for kids. Kids’ top three overall search terms in 2009 were YouTube, Google, and Facebook. While these sites can be entertaining and educational for kids under supervision, parents need to monitor usage and talk to kids about appropriate and inappropriate things they may find on-line.


Teens’ Top 25

1. YouTube 2. Facebook 3. Google 4. Sex

5. MySpace 6. Porn 7. Yahoo 8. Youtube.com 9. eBay

10. Wikipedia

Tweens’ Top 25

1. YouTube 2. Google 3. Facebook 4. Sex

5. Club Penguin 6. Youtube.com 7. You Tube 8. Miniclip

9. Yahoo 10. eBay

7 & Under Top 25

1. YouTube 2. Google 3. Facebook 4. Porn

5. Club Penguin 6. Yahoo 7. Webkinz 8. You Tube

9. Games 10. Miniclip


We use Safari installed on a Mac in our family room that the kids use periodically to play games. When they are logged into their account, Safari only allows them to surf to sites we’ve approved. We don’t allow them to look at YouTube and other sites without us being there to control the buttons. Our kids are still only 5 and 9 so that is bound to change soon.


Norton offers the basic OnlineFamily.Norton at no charge, but plans to launch a premium subscription version later in 2010.

Popularity: 11%

Why parenting magazines ignore us dads

Author
Paul Banas

It’s true most parenting magazines have mom-free names and try to insert a page or two “just for dad,” but the reason the overwhelming amount of content is geared toward the female persuasion has a lot less to do with the editors than it does the people who are paying to get the magazine out the door: the advertisers.

Sorry Dad – but they don’t care if you want five friendly recipes for adding veggies to your kid’s diet. They want to sell your wife/girlfriend a package of organic waffles with broccoli ground up inside. Because the studies show she’s the one more likely to buy them. Women are widely touted as the controllers of the family purse strings – even in families where there are shared checking accounts. The common number you hear? About eighty percent of family spending is done by the female head of household.

From Why Parenting Mags Ignore Dad | Strollerderby]

Bad news for those of us trying at least to cover the cost of the Pampers by writing about our dad experiences. Until we become a real economic force, dads are an add-on. But why is that when dads are involved, or usually lead, the very big ticket items, like the choice of the mini van or the new long-term life insurance plan.

As I mentioned a few posts back, this year at the ABC Kids show in Vegas, “dad” was integrated into all the marketing materials. Maybe dad isn’t doing the weekly shopping but he is weighing in heavily on which stroller he is willing to push down the street, or which car seat he’s going to move in and out of the car. Dads do think differently than moms, and the sexes will likely continue to have their own sweet spots and obsessions, but count on more and more dads to be making the choice of the family toothpaste and even the diapers as we take a more active role in “home” and even stay there to be with the kids.

Popularity: 1%

Help for helpless dads (and moms) with no support system, but lots of cash

Author
Paul Banas

Finally someone has come up with the ultimate service for new parents who have no time, no clue, but lots of coin. Gifted At Birth (giftedatbirth.com) sends you everything you need to take care of baby every week, for three months after the baby is born.

They’ll even help you choose the right items for your lifestyle (green, idiot-proof….). All this for the low low starter price of only $124. If you live in Manhattan, a postpartum doula wiil come to you to explain how everything works, including the baby. Outside the diamond-studded boundaries of NYC, however, it will be a burly UPS guy who won’t have a clue.

You have to admire the moxie of a company that can make the promise to figure out what you need every week and imagine that you’ll just outsource it all. Maybe some well-heeled people are that overwhelmed, but they might also be in denial about how much parenting you actually need to do when you are a parent.

Warning: their site has the dreaded homepage music that can wake your co-workers, your sleeping spouse, or the baby!

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