Children today are learning about computer science as part of their general curriculum. Computers and the technology that accompanies them are what our children are being brought up with. They do not necessarily know a world without cyber space or hard drives. It is therefore difficult for parents, who did not grow up in this environment, to make decisions regarding when their child is old enough to need email for school.
Chances are that when your child needs email for school, they will also want to use that email for keeping in touch with their friends. There are a lot of decisions to be made that pertain to the safety of the child when they are online as parents know that there is a great deal of objectionable material out there that they do not want their children to be subjected to. Fortunately when your child only needs to use email for school, you as a parent can put some more strict rules into force that dictate just how that account is to be used.
Some children may never need to have email for school or may only need to access that email a few times a year and therefore mom or dad can be in complete control of the account activity. If, however, your child does need to have constant access to email and you cannot always be there to supervise, it is your responsibility to teach your children what rules they will be expected to follow while online. If you do not feel like your child is old enough to make the kinds of decisions that will be necessary when they have their own account, they may not yet be old enough to have email of their own.
There is no magical age when a child is all of a sudden able to be held accountable for what they do and how they respond to everything that they do online. There are definitely emails that will be sent, spam if you will, that will be disguised quite cleverly as something harmless. If your child is not able to follow simple rules such as agreeing never to open an email unless you know the sender, it will be difficult to be confident that they are not being negatively influenced by material that you as a parent do not approve of.
Also keep in mind that kids can be cruel. Unfortunately it is not uncommon for even a school sponsored email account to be the method of distributing gossip, bullying and even delivering threats. In fact, more and more children are participating in an act called cyber bullying. Hiding behind their modems, children feel less inhibited about writing things that they know they should never say in person. Many young people have been both psychologically and physically injured because of an email that was forwarded to all of their classmates.
Children must be trusted with the responsibility of having an email account before they can be granted the privilege of having an account that they are solely responsible for. As a parent it is your job to monitor your child’s time online as well as their correspondences. If your child is not abiding by the rules that you have established there needs to be consequences. Do not become lax when it comes to using caution with your children and their accessibility to the Internet and to online correspondence. If your child must use email for school make sure that they are old enough to use this service responsibly and only for the educational purposes for which it was intended. If your child is unable to do this, you know that they are not yet ready for an email account that has even more freedoms and is not sponsored by the school.