As a parent, you probably grew up without access to the Internet or if you are a younger parent, chances are that the Internet and email were not nearly as popular when you were younger, as they are now. Therefore, it is easy to say that your child will never really “need” email, at least while they are still living under your roof. However, chances are that because email is so important to kids these days that they will find ways to get an email account with or without your blessing. So, for many the best option is to allow children to have email accounts but to also be required to follow rules regarding that usage.
Children do not need email if they cannot yet read or write. This part is relatively easy to understand. So now the question is “How old should my child be before they need email?”
Experts suggest that a child is fully capable of working their own email account by the time that they are in the second or third grade. Now this does not mean that parents should be granting their 2nd and 3rd graders with free reign over the computer, rather this age is simply to use as a standard for when your child may be ready to take on the responsibilities of having their own email account.
Email accounts are scary things for parents because as a parent you are very much aware of child predators, spam mail, and other inappropriate things that you do not want your child to be exposed to. Naturally, it is the parental instinct to want to protect your children from any kind of harm, be it physical or emotional. Many parents therefore strike a compromise with their children when first allowing them to have an email account. These parents allow their child to have an email account with the condition that the parent is granted the ability to monitor whatever messages the parent feels may be inappropriate. This includes deleting messages from people that your child does not know and getting rid of any spam mail before your child has a chance to look at it.
Obviously removing all objectionable content from your child’s email account is something that you can do for only so long. As a parent you must therefore teach and re-teach your children about Internet safety and how to be on the look out for things to avoid. Kids are smart and will eventually catch on to the fact that they really do not need to see the kinds of things that you are trying to keep them away from anyway.
Granting your child the right to email means that you are putting a certain level of trust into the decision. Your child needs to know that there will be consequences to the violation of that trust and parents need to understand that children should be given an opportunity to earn trust and therefore more freedom when it comes to their email accounts. The best measure of when a child is ready for email can only be made by the guardians that know that child best. Parents should work with their children, rather than act as dictator, when it comes to establishing rules and granting privileges. More and more freedoms should be allowed as the child shows that they can use their email account responsibly. Through trust and mutual respect, children learn better how to care for themselves and parents can rest a little easier knowing that their child has learned from the things that have been taught at home regarding the internet and email use.