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Monday, January 19, 2009

Kids and Email

Most kids today grow up being technologically sound. They start playing computer games relatively early. They know how to maneuver through the Internet without much parental assistance. The computer is an integral part of their lives.

At some point, your child is going to ask you if he can have an email address because email is so widely used for communication. (Of course, he'll probably just set one up without bothering to ask....but hey, I'm being optimistic here. )

The thing about email is this: It can be good, but it can also be bad. Email offers a means of communication that opens the door for lots of not so good information to reach your child. Personally, I think young children should be monitored when using the computer and features such as email.

If your child is under the age of 13, I recommend that email only be used when you are nearby to monitor all messages that are sent and received. You may think this borders on invasion of privacy, but protecting your child is far more important than maintaining his privacy.

Now, I'm not saying you need to read every word of every message. I'm just saying you should be aware of who your child is communicating and what type of information is being discussed. To be fair, your child should be fully aware of the fact that you will be monitoring his access to his email account. You might even keep the password private and only allow your child to log into his email when you are nearby to keep an eye on things.

After the age of 13, children can be given more freedom. At this point I recommend - depending on the child, of course - that children be allowed to access their email without such strict supervision. It is still important to know who is sending and receiving messages, but not so necessary to monitor everything that goes on. Again, tell your child that you are reserving the right to read his mail at any given time. If he knows ahead of time what the rules are, then it is still not an invasion of his privacy. He will also be more likely to behave properly when writing emails if he knows that you might possibly read what he has written.

Around the age of 16 or so - again, depending on the child - you can relax your restrictions even more. At this point, the amount of freedom that you offer your child will depend largely on your child's level of responsibility.

It is really important that your child be monitored at least on some level as they are growing up. The Internet is filled with many dangers that we, as parents, are simply unable to see. It requires a little extra vigilance on our part to make sure our children understand how to behave and know what treatment is acceptable and what is not.

On a side note - email is a wonderful way for your children to communicate with family and friends. You can even add your child's email to your own list of contacts and send a few notes every now and then. Your child will definitely enjoy getting messages from Mommy and Daddy.


Sherrie said...

I'm glad my oldest isn't quite able to read all the words in today's language. email for him for a while! LOL! But -- you're right...they are very technoligically savvy these days!