Tips for Helping Kids Choose Safe Screen Names

Tips for Helping Kids Choose Safe Screen Names

Make sure that children in your care aren't giving away too much information with their screen names.

Kids are practically inseparable from technology. Whether it is reading a book on an e-reader, playing Minecraft with friends online, gaming, or watching videos on YouTube, children and teens are spending a lot more time online. Most of the popular sites require creating an account. Children should choose a screen name that is memorable, but that doesn't allow strangers to identify them in real life. Here are some tips for selecting safe screen names.

Avoid meaningful numbers

Kids are often tempted to include their age (scottyb13) or class leaving year (scottyb2014) as it helps them identify with their peer groups, however this can also help a stranger identify your child.

Your child should avoid these numbers as well as telephone area codes, postal codes and birth years, as they can be combined with other readily available online information to help identify them.

Names and initials

Your child should omit using their full name or full initials as well. JRSmith is still a bit too much information, although only using part of their name such as JSmith, is a safer choice. If your son or daughter has a more uncommon name, they shouldn't include it.

Avoid giving out your location

Likewise, your child wants to avoid including their area, county or city in their screen name. In addition, make sure your child doesn’t use the name of their school or other membership club.

Come up with a ‘stage name’

Try combining your child’s first name with a completely different name. Perhaps they are a fan of Ke$ha, so they could use JonnyKe$ha as a safe screen name. If your child supports Manchester United, but doesn’t live in that city, then they could use JonnyManchester, for example.

Your child can also use an online random name generator to come up with something really unique or different.

Mix it up

Giving away identifying information isn't the only problem with being online. You also want to prevent or make it more difficult for people to hack into their accounts. The more secure screen names contain a mix of characters, cases, and numbers. Something like JoNny$812 is much stronger than janeslikes1d.

Teamwork is important

As much as your child wants to preserve their individuality, selecting a safe screen name is something that is better done with their parent(s). It can even be a fun family project where everyone joins in to come up with silly or unusual names that your child could use.

Learn more about e-safety, protecting children online, how children and young people use technology and its associated risks in EduCare’s Child Exploitation & Online Safety online learning course.

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