Domain Squatters Targetting Children

David Churbuck had a great post about domain squatters today, which is definitely a must read…he calls it the “bottom of the online marketing barrel.”

It’s a bigger issue…if you have children.

I sat last weekend next to my daughters, 7 & 8, as they surfed.  At that age, spelling isn’t exactly a strong point.  As they moved around the heavily branded sites they like, such as http://www.postopia.com (Post Cereal), bratz.com, barbie.com, disney.com, they often mispelled the url.  Each time I had to interject “STOP”…

To their credit, postopia has bought up many of the mispelling surrounding their main domain name.  However, type in http://www.postpia.com, and you get something that really ticked me off.  One of the domain squatters, offering links to chat, music downloads, dating, and nightclub/dance (which would catch any little girl interested in ballet).

My experience with these sites is that they open a ton of brilliantly colored popups, and I believe they’re havens for spyware/malware.  To target children is utterly wrong.

Lesson: watch your children online always.  They can be in jeopardy, but even if they are not, they will innocently click those little “install buttons” that we’ve all learned to ignore – and your system and you will probably play the price.  The net can be a very dark place, and one mistyped url can lead them into places you never want them to go.

I’ve been approached by people who wanted to build sites around mispellings before.  I have always turned those projects down.  I encourage everyone else to do the same.

*Update*

David comments back on his blog:

Mark,
These guys aren’t playing the “misspell” game, they are basically conducting risk arbitrage on domain purchases, rolling them up into a network, and leveraging “found” traffic into an SEM/SEO play.

the misspell swine are in a different league.

Reminding me of my initial point (okay, I was writing off the cuff).

Right – I forgot to get to that point…the other issue I’ve seen with my kids is that they definitely will try “www.ballet.com” or “www.ilikehorses.com” – and I’ve got to redirect them to google and be sure that they are 100% supervised when they’re searching. They don’t click a link unless I read the description and approve it.

When I got home from Indianapolis last week, their machine was blue screened. Turns out Mommy thinks supervising them can be done from the backyard while doing garden chores. I have yet to convince her otherwise, so now the machine is simply locked while I’m not sitting next to it.

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