Saturday, 19 March 2011

Mom, can I have an email?

So, my daughter was the last almost-11-year-old on the planet to get her own email account, I guess I'm a little conservative!  At any rate, all social injustices aside, there does come a time where using mommy's account doesn't work well for either party.  She needs to research and share information on projects with school mates she's working with, and she needs to start growing up and learning how to be responsible for her own email usage.

That being said, there are some things parents can do to monitor and protect.

First of all, there is an appropriate time to allow a child to have their own email… or at least an inappropriate time.  If the child is not old enough to type or remember their own password, then it's likely too early. 

Second, I don't recommend a run of the mill free email account such as gmail, yahoo, hotmail etc. to start off with.  Some of these are better than others at offering mechanisms for creating a safe environment for children, however, I recommend starting with an email account that is specifically designed for children.  There are several of them, usually you have to pay for them and how much and how often you pay varies.  I chose  It is a one time fee of 9.95 (some have annual or monthly fees).  I haven't evaluated any others in any amount of detail as of yet, but I have some concerns with the one that we chose.  First, I have to log in with my daughter's username and password first before I put in the parent's password and edit the buddy list.  Second, the passwords (hers and mine) are  visible on the password edit screens in plain text.  This is far from ideal, but for the most part, once it's set up it is workable.  I chose one of the cheaper options, so I guess you get what you pay for!

The important feature for a first time user is to have a restricted buddy/contact list.  The parent logs in and sets up a list of email addresses that the child is allowed to send emails to and recieve emails from.  This will virtually eliminate the possibility of receiving unwanted spam emails.  It also offers the ability to have all emails coming to and from the account copied to the parent.  There are differing views on this option… is there a line that is crossed where there is no trust and a breach of privacy?  My opinion is that this has a lot of benefits including protecting the child from bad influences and bullying… even someone on the allowed list could be a questionable influence at times.  For now, I have chosen to turn it on and let my daughter know that I will recieve the emails but not likely choose to read many if any of them unless something starts to concern me.

There has been lots written about such things already.  Do a simple search on safe email for kids and you will find lots of articles and opinions if you want to read more.  I found a good article that compares two decent free versions and zoobuh, an inexpensive one.  Here it is

Please feel free to comment about what you have tried and how it is working for you.

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