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Gentle January

Keep Your Kid’s Personal Info Off the Internet

Children start making digital footprints long before they can walk—but parents can help slow the process down

Digital illustration of the words “Gentle January” over a field of pixelated flowers; in the right-hand corner there is the number “13” placed on a stack of post-its
Gabriel Hongsdusit

These days, children begin making digital footprints before they can walk—voracious tech companies even snap up data before children are born. So when my first child came into the world, my wife and I decided to try to keep our baby’s name, face, and personal details off the internet. 

I didn’t want a photo of my kid hoovered into an AI training dataset, or have their name and birth date germinate an ad targeting profile. Future friends, partners, and employers shouldn’t be able to Google their childhood photos. My child needs to learn to read “Goodnight Moon” before they can tackle a privacy policy

In practice, this means my wife and I made no public birth announcement. Instead, we sent private messages to friends and family. We have tried to avoid posting our baby’s name, photo and birth date, especially all three in one location where they can be easily associated with each other.

Complicating our efforts, our child does not share a last name with either my wife or me. We gave our child a different last name to avoid picking either of our surnames or a lengthy compound name. 

A side-effect of the new surname is additional privacy: our child’s first and last name is a truly unique combination. We’ve tried to avoid putting it out into the world where we can. At the moment, a Google search for their full name returns zero results.

How long can that last? The attempt frequently feels futile. Even with our precautions, we haven’t cut ourselves off from the digital ecosystem entirely. My child’s name sits in insurance company databases, daycare registration forms, and cloud storage servers. That Google search? It means Google now has at least one record of my kid’s name associated with me.

Short of burning our social security cards and fleeing to the tundra, going truly off-grid is impossible. But I hope our efforts will obscure our child’s digital trail and help them choose when, how, and how much to share.

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