When his wife was still pregnant, Gaurav Virkar, 32, created an email id in their future child’s name and began writing a letter to him every day.
“We had decided that our child’s name would start with the letter ‘V’, so I created the id accordingly,” says Virkar, a business director at a media agency. “From that day, instead of writing in my journal, I began emailing our little one.”
Over the three years since his son was born, Virkar has continued to email short notes on his day, his work and his life to the Gmail id.
“When Vedant grows up, he can take over the email id and he will always have the e-mails I left for him in the inbox,” says Virkar.
In addition to the letters there are photographs, videos and copies of birthday party invitations — a constantly growing treasury of childhood memorabilia.
While Virkar’s is a touching and unusual repository, a growing number of young, urban parents are working to create an e-inheritance for their children, often starting off in the first year of their birth.
The most immediate motive is to secure their child’s digital identity by blocking an appropriate email id, social networking page or blog.
“A decade from now, there aren’t going to be any email addresses of your choice left,” says Dharam Valia, 35, an advertising professional who set-up a Gmail account for his son, Jay, when he was just four months old. “Even now, I have had to settle for a ‘dot’ in the email address; the seamless id I wanted was taken.”
Parents are also using these online accounts to keep friends and family updated and create a sort of online baby book and repository of childhood notes and memories.
Inspired by the ‘Dear Sophie’ Google Chrome ad where a man creates an account for his new-born daughter and writes to her about all the important days in their lives, also saving all her baby photos and videos, Pooja Jaisingh, 27, set up a similar account for her 11-month-old baby girl, Samara.
Six months on, she uses the email id to send photos and videos to friends and family. Jaisingh also plans to write Samara a letter on her first birthday.
Businessman Anshul Chopra, 29, finds it easier to share photos of his nephew Arhaan via social networking website Facebook, where Chopra has created an account for the five-year-old. “We have relatives across the country and abroad and, since everyone is on Facebook, they can all stay updated on how Arhaan is growing up,” says Chopra.
There is a catch, however. Services such as Gmail and Facebook do not allow users below the age of 13 to create accounts, so most of the parents creating accounts for their babies are, in effect, lying about the age of the intended owner. (To view the Facebook policy for underage users, visit facebook.com/help/parents)
“The challenge lies in monitoring their kids once they start using these accounts on their own,” says clinical psychologist Neha Patel, “because in most cases, they will likely still be only eight or nine years old.”