Q: At what age do you think it is appropriate for a child to have a personal e-mail address? I have a 10 year old who wants one, but I don’t feel she is old enough. I think she can be trusted and has proved to be responsible, but it’s the world out there I worry about. How would we block inappropriate e-mails?
–eQuestioning in Mansfield, MA
A: Dear eQuestioning,
Treat personal email like any other tool: When it’s the right tool for the job at hand—whether that job to communicate with loved ones or to send homework to a teacher—that’s the time to introduce it to your child.
But that doesn’t mean her email needs to be private. In fact, as your child starts using this tool on her own, your supervision and guidance can help her learn to navigate that world safely and successfully. Start with an email service that allows you to access her account, set controls, and review emails yourself before she sees or sends them.
As you and she gain confidence in her email skills, give her more independence and freedom bit by bit—perhaps by checking less often and starting to let her monitor her own email, with the clear and explicit understanding that you are passing to her the responsibility to keep her email healthy and safe.
And no matter how much freedom she has with email (and with texting, which has already eclipsed email for peer-to-peer communication), check in with her continuously, and make sure she feels safe, supported, and able to reach out for your help. For more information, see these other answers:
- How can I protect my child when she's learning to use email?
- How should I get my kids set up with their first email account?
Enjoy your media and use them wisely,