Parents have been reaching out to me to ask about allowing their children to have their own email accounts. While email can be a valuable tool for children learning written communication skills, there are, of course, questions that need to be considered.
Checking in with parents about their concerns about their child’s use of email helps to figure out what may be the right approach. Is a concern that they can sign up for things (Facebook, Instagram, etc.)? Is it about who might send them messages? Is the concern about the child’s ability to filter information? Is it about what the child may put in writing? Is it about knowing what children are writing?
Based on each child’s situation, there are options for email accounts. Parents can create an account that is monitored by having the incoming emails forwarded to them. This can be just to be ready to have conversations about links you shouldn’t click, what to do if a stranger writes, how much information to give online, etc.
Children are learning in an increasingly digital world and what they need are the skills to navigate it. If filters are so strong that children aren’t exposed to any questionable material, then they won’t learn how to problem-solve or react once they are on their own in the digital world.
There are a number of companies that provide services for children’s email accounts. These services are a great start for teaching email basics. Once children begin to understand the ground rules, it’s always easier to move them to a less restrictive platform.
While it’s necessary to know what your child is doing online, it’s even more important to talk to them about situations they may encounter. It’s also important to consider how much privacy your child deserves in terms of communicating with friends and relatives. Think about how important it was to write private notes to friends and family when you were young.
As nice as it would be to be able to give a blanket response to this question, there are so many considerations that come into play. I hope that some of the questions raised in this post will help parents make the decision that is right for each child.