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Plugged-in parents, like Vital Design’s Zac Gregg, securing online accounts for tots

Twitter has many uses – sharing interesting news stories, linking to funny animal videos. And showing Grandma and Grandpa a picture of your first haircut.

Toddlers and babies who can’t yet talk, never mind type, are quietly adding to the ranks of Twitter’s 6.5 million users. Technically, of course, it’s their parents creating the accounts, hoping to secure and save a slice of the internet for when Junior is old enough to start creating his own brand.

Ranger Gregg just turned three, and right before he was born, or shortly thereafter, dad Zac Gregg created accounts for Ranger and his older sister Talula, who’s now 6.

Zac Gregg, founder of Vital Design web development and marketing agency in Portsmouth, has always been an early adopter. Twitter accounts are free, but he also reserved their eponymous web domains, at an annual cost of $12.

He’s helped companies that haven’t staked their claim on digital real estate, and it’s hard to recover a brand once someone else owns the name, he said.

Basketball great Michael Jordan didn’t reserve his name on Twitter early, for instance. So his tweets are at @Jumpman23, while all kinds of variations of his real name are out there to gather followers for spammers and jokesters.

Since Gregg, proud dad that he is, just knows Ranger and Talula are witty, funny and destined for fame, fortune and internet domination, he sees the accounts and sites as a low-cost investment in their future reputations.

“It’s a chance to give them a very special gift someday. . . . Who knows what your children will become? You always hope they are someone special, and if they are, you can give them this gift of not having to be in legal battles over their own name.”

If he does everything right, Gregg hopes, the accounts could also serve as digital scrapbooks, marking milestones like the first time the kids lose a tooth, and others. He was inspired in part by a viral video ad for Google’s email service that showed a proud dad setting up an email account in his new daughter’s name the day he brought her home from the hospital, and writing to her to document her life over the years.

It helps that Ranger (@Ranger Gregg) and Talula (@TalulaGregg) are unusual names, and that they have a dad who’s plugged in.

The trend for babies on Twitter is hottest with parents who work in the media or digital worlds. Ten month old Harper Wolfeld-Gosk (@harperestelle) has almost 9,500 followers. A few of them might have found her through her moms, NBC News reporters Jenna Wolfe and Stephanie Gosk.

Concord City Councilor Amanda Grady Sexton uses social media every day to advocate and connect professionally, and to keep in touch with family.

But when she tried to sign toddler Sam and infant Scarlett up for simple handles, she found several variations of their names were already taken.

Brady Carlson, Concord resident and blog writer, and former new media coordinator for New Hampshire Public Radio, was similarly dissuaded when he found someone “squatting” on @OwenCarlson, an account he wanted to open for his 3-year-old son.

Since whoever owns the account isn’t using it, Carlson could probably get control of it by petitioning the site to release it, but he isn’t willing to put that much effort into a project he’s not sure of yet.

Carlson said he couldn’t quite get behind the idea of putting words into his son’s mouth before the boy could speak for himself.

Now that Owen is a toddler – and a funny one, dad said – he’s revisiting the idea of documenting the one-liners and bon mots, but still isn’t sure. Toddler-hood is ephemeral; the internet is forever.

“I see now a kid who’s 3 and loves attention, gets a kick out of thinking people thought things he said were funny. But when he’s in eighth grade, will he want this long trail of public moments out there for people to look at? Would he want me to have made the decision for him?”

Gregg said he doesn’t really see much downside in the sporadic tweets he posts for his kids.

The kids both have only 15 followers, even though their handles are promoted in both mom’s and dad’s Twitter bios. Ranger hasn’t posted since September 2012, and that was to promote the New Hampshire Film Festival, where mom Nicole Gregg is executive director. Talula tweeted last November to celebrate her sixth birthday.

“I try and put funny things in their voices, making fun of mom and dad, but they don’t really have any friends online. Nobody’s listening, but I’m not afraid of people knowing about the accounts,” Gregg said. “The worst thing that could happen is you follow them and realize kids are pretty boring accounts to follow for someone who doesn’t know us.”

(Sarah Palermo can be reached at 369-3322 or spalermo@cmonitor.com or on Twitter @SPalermoNews.)

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