When Is a Child Old Enough For E-Mail?
As far as KJ Dell’Antonia was concerned, there was no reason to delay setting her kids up with e-mail addresses around the time they turned 7. They got snail mail, she reasoned, so why not e-mail?
The New York Times Motherlode columnist later realized that the issue isn’t only about when to get e-mail, but what having an e-mail address enables kids to do – with or without parental permission.
“Without an e-mail account, you have to ask a parent to sign you up for everything from Club Penguin to Facebook,” Dell’Antonia writes. “With an e-mail, you’re free to do all of those things on our own.”
Using their e-mail addresses, some kids go ahead and sign up for Instagram, Facebook, or other social networks, which are not intended for them.
One solution for younger kids is to set up an account, which is funneled through your own so you can monitor the e-mails they send and receive. The larger issue as Dell’Antonia sees it, is the e-mail address as entrée to the larger (and less kid-friendly) world of the Internet.
Common Sense Media recently wrote about e-mail programs which are designed specifically for kids including Maily: Your Kids’ First Email, an iPad app which offers young kids a secure, parent-monitored interface for sending and receiving emails.
How old do you think kids should be before they get their own e-mail address and, more importantly, how do you educate children to use the Internet responsibly?