Sexygirl24, cutepie365, toughguy64, these look familiar right? These online handles perfectly describe my adolescence.
I’m pretty sure one of those was mine almost exactly. I don’t think my mother would have appreciated that at 14. Now, when I was a kid, we weren’t choosing online names for video games. It was ICQ and MSN Messenger that first became popular on the internet with my friends. We had zero guidance regarding online safety. That’s not a knock at our parents, they just hadn’t dealt with anything like this before. Boy did that backfire for a lot of us. And now here we sit, trying to make sure our kids don’t make the mistakes we made.
My online handle is now Cahlayna. Xbox, PlayStation, Twitch, Instagram, you name it. I couldn’t tell you why. I think as a young adult I thought it sounded girly and pretty, maybe a little sexy, so I ran with it. It has been my name in every video game since. Even World of Warcraft, where you have 10+ characters, I just managed to keep spelling the name in new ways, Cahlaina, Kulaina etc. It’s everywhere now and my son has just accepted it. He calls me by it half the time and I’m still not sure if that’s good or bad parenting. He has his own that he uses for Fortnite, I won’t share it publicly, but I think it’s hilarious and I hope he keeps it until he is 80.
It didn’t start that way though. I made sure when my kids were born that I secured them an email address with their names. I’m pretty sure I was stuck with Dayna114 as a kid and had to change it several times as I grew up. Pending a change in technology, they can keep this, and it will hold up through becoming professional adults. But their gaming names? This is where I encourage them to be creative!
I have plenty of kids on my gaming platforms, most are family, but some from streaming as well. Something I’ve noticed that alarms me are their screen names. I’m not usually a helicopter parent, not always afraid of what they’re doing and watching their every move. But something about their online handles concerns me. I wanted to share a few things I’ve noticed; in case some others don’t think about it this way.
Your kid’s name can say a lot without you realizing it. For example, if they put their real name in there. Justin or Mary have now just told every person they’re playing with their real first name. It gives random adults an in. A way to make your child feel more familiar, more comfortable with them. In our house, we don’t use our names, and we don’t tell our names. That’s an immediate “Game off”.
Alright, no first or last names. Fine. They’ve now picked cutepuppy12. Okay, that seems innocent enough. But as a gamer, when I see names like that, I’m automatically discouraged. I assume it’s a child. Yes, I’m a terrible person, I don’t want to be stuck in kids’ lobbies in games. My kids are in bed, give me some freedom here! As a mom though, my first instinct is “that’s a tiny human”. This could mean anyone out there who might fall under stranger danger in an online world is probably thinking the same thing. Don’t let your child’s online name advertise that they’re young. Young equals vulnerable.
Here is the flip side though, say you’re playing a game and cutepuppy12 joins the lobby. You’re like me, automatically thinking it’s a child, but a big booming grown up voice comes through your headset. Usually that wouldn’t alarm most people. Since I’ve had children, I’ve become hyper aware of red flags though. A grown adult with a super cutesy name is cause for concern for me. It draws kids in, makes them feel safe. What if there is no voice chat? Your child might just assume they’re talking to another child. Make sure they know that anyone on the internet can be just that, anyone. Again, I could just be paranoid, but I’d rather not be oblivious.
Parents know their kids best, always! It may seem like something small but take this opportunity to sit down with your children. Help them choose a name, brainstorm, play with real words and made-up ones. There is always a way to turn something into a learning opportunity. Give them the chance to be creative with their names while you’re there to also keep them safe. I wanted to push to make my kids take something like Lil’ Cahl, or Cahl Jr, but they weren’t having it. They might surprise you with the cool things they can come up with
I don’t want adults feeling like predators when a kid pops into their lobby. Personally, I’ve never experienced any issues with any adults playing with my kids. I don’t want to scare any parents off. I’m not saying the internet is bad and to stay away. I’m ALWAYS just saying, be aware, communicate, and definitely don’t let your kid pick a ridiculous name that they’ll be stuck with for years to come.