In today’s high-tech society it seems that kids are being given cell phones and other high tech devices as soon as they are able to talk. Although this may be a bit of an exaggeration it is not to take away from the reality that children today communicate much differently than children even ten years ago communicated. Parents have to deal with some very real issues involving safety and exposure to objectionable materials that did not exist when they were children.
It sure would be nice if someone would come out and state the details that parents always sweat over. But, unfortunately there are decisions that each individual parent must make for themselves. One such decision is determining what age your child should be before they have an email account. Although there is no set age, there are some suggestions that might help you in determining the age that is appropriate for your own children.
Chances are that the first time that you really started thinking about how old your child should be before having an email account was when your child brought it to your attention. Perhaps your child is being pressured by classmates, or all of his friends have email accounts, and he thinks that he should have one too. Obviously emailing requires skills of typing, writing and reading so any age where such skills have not yet been developed is most likely inappropriate for your child to have an email account.
When your child has developed the abilities and the desire to use email, it is not unreasonable to request a great deal of control over the experience. When your child is first allowed to use the computer and Internet for email, parents need to assert that they will also be granted access to the emails being received. Obviously this is not a sneaky way of spying on your children rather, it is a way of protecting them from the numerous negative influences that having and email account exposes a child to. Spam is definitely something that could be extremely hurtful to young eyes. Parents can actually set up an email package that downloads your child’s messages to your machine, such as Eudora or Outlook. This allows you to download the messages being sent to your child’s email account in advance so that you can delete any inappropriate content.
For parents who may not feel comfortable looking over their child’s shoulder or children who might be hiding some emails from their parents, an alternative is definitely to have regular conversations about what spam is and what a child should do if they come across content that makes them feel uncomfortable.
If you feel like your child is having a difficult time understanding the risks and dangers of having an email account, they may be too young for one. A child should be responsible and mature enough to respect that as parents, your sole purpose in setting these rules is not to restrict but to protect. Children should also consent to a set of reasonable rules regarding the terms of their use of the Internet and their email account. Such rules would include when, where and for how long they are allowed to be on the Internet or corresponding via email. If these rules are violated the consequences would naturally include being denied access to the computer for a set period of time. Just as with many privileges in life, having an email account is not a right, and as a parent you should not feel pressured into allowing your children to have access to their own email account before you feel like they are ready.