Through any number of free e-mail programs such as Gmail, Yahoo! Mail, Hotmail and more, kids can communicate with others by exchanging messages, which contain text and photos, as well as video and file attachments. This begs the questions: should you even give your kid an e-mail address? And at what age? And with what risks? Our book Parenting High-Tech Kids: The Ultimate Internet, Web, and Online Safety Guide explores several of these questions – questions we’ll also attempt to address here.
A few points to note up-front, however. Many e-mail providers are starting to enforce a starting age limit on e-mail accounts, but parents and determined tots can easily work around such limitations, and many families in fact start their children off by signing up for accounts around the ages of eight or nine. Although sending messages to friends on Facebook is increasing in popularity amongst children as well, the three top e-mail providers we’ve named combined account for more than 1 billion different accounts alone.
Giving kids their own e-mail account is one of the first steps that many parents take to provide them with online independence. But it’s also key that you still maintain control of their account should the need to access to control it arise. You can do this both by linking their e-mail and related activity to your own account, but also maintaining knowledge and control of kids’ passwords so you can check in on these accounts from time to time.
Aside from communications, one of the main reasons kids will want an e-mail address is that they’re needed to register for many online services. However, it’s not a bad thing to require kids to use their parents’ e-mail accounts instead of their own, or utilize a shared account. When signing up for these services, kids should always use an account that parents control, because there are often many features provided that are designed specifically for parents to use to help manage kids’ online usage.
For young children that don’t have their own cell phone yet, an e-mail address and an iPod Touch with a wireless connection can act almost like “texting training wheels,” providing kids with a way to communicate back and forth in quick bursts with their friends. E-mail use, however, is on the decline, as kids are using texting, IM programs and even video chat more and more as ways to communicate with their friends.
Music, movies, fine dining, travel, and brunching - these are just a few of Associate Editor Stephanie Hartman's favorite hobbies. You're as apt to catch her at a summer festival or sipping Manhattans as at the city's best spas - and taking notes to share with readers.