Tag Archives: email

Kids and email: What parents need to know about their children online

Children emailYour seven-year-old’s best friend is moving away. She’s really upset about it and wants to keep in touch. Can she have an email account? Pretty please? She promises to use it just to keep in touch with her friend. And maybe her grandparents. And her cousins in Florida. What about her camp friends, and the kid she met on the beach during winter break?

You know it’s the tip of the iceberg. Email is a powerful and immediate way to stay connected, but it also opens up a whole host of questions about safety online, from protecting one’s privacy to enabling the kind of digital communication that can easily be abused, misused or misunderstood. And it also invites questions about all kinds of other activities online, from Instagram to Tumblr and Facebook.

So what age is the right age for a first email account?

It’s a variation of the same question I often hear from parents at my workshops – what age is the right one for surfing the Internet, or getting a cellphone, or starting a blog, or online gaming?

My answer is always the same: there is no magic age when every kid is ready. You need to balance your family values, your child’s level of maturity and responsibility and your comfort level in supervising their activities.

However, I do think that introducing school-aged children to email at home — at a point where you feel comfortable — offers a golden opportunity to establish responsible use of online tools. Here are just some of the topics that you can discuss with your kids about using email:

  • protecting passwords,
  • manners, civility and “netiquette” online,
  • how typed-out words on a screen may not convey nuance, sarcasm and irony the way spoken words do,
  • trusting superficial identification – people can use email to pretend to be someone else,
  • how digital conversations can be forwarded, copied or taken out of context without permission – always assume more than one pair of eyes may read what you write,
  • digital permanence – you can never be sure anything you’ve written or posted is completely deleted.

If you do decide to allow your child to open an email account, consider implementing the following guidelines:

  1. parents should know their usernames and passwords, but ask that they don’t share that information with anyone else,
  2. request that they ask permission from parents before opening any new account,
  3. anything written out in a digital format is not to be considered private and off-limits to parents (if they want privacy, it should be written out longhand on paper),
  4. review emails with your child from time to time (not behind their backs, unless you think they might legitimately be in danger), not to read what their friends write, but so they doesn’t get fooled by spam, viruses and Nigerian princes,
  5. limit the places they use their personal email address, so they don’t become overwhelmed by sales pitches from companies eager to market to children,
  6. that they be good “e-friends,” respecting what others write,
  7. that over time, with demonstration of consistent good judgement and responsibility, parents will give their children additional increments of privacy online.

The goal is support and teach your children how to become good digital citizens — after all, this is the world they will inherit. They need to learn these healthy online habits somewhere, and it’s ideal if they are reinforced in the home. So go ahead and let your second-grader open her (or his) very own email account, but make sure s/he has the tools, resources and supervision to handle it responsibly.

 

www.pdf24.org    Send article as PDF   

Giving our kids ALL our attention in a half-attention world (at least some of the time)

Your messages are waiting.

My newly minted 8-year-old chose today as her mental health day. I give each of my girls one “free” day a year, when they get to take off school and hang out with me, doing whatever they like. It can get a bit complicated with my work schedule, but basically they get most of the day to sleep in, get more than their usual 30 minutes allotment of daily screentime, go for lunch, a walk with the dog, a trip to the library, etc.

It can be a bit of a challenge to fit in one-on-one time with three kids, so this is a little bonus for all of us. One day a year may not seem like much, but it does feel very special when it finally comes round.

So my little one and I hung around the house all morning, and I have to admit that I squeezed in some work on the computer while she parked her brain in front of the Family channel. I did feel a teeny bit guilty about this, but she was very happy to have uninterrupted access to the TV for a bit.

She chose a nice brunch type place for lunch and when we were handed the menus, my cellphone buzzed. She rolled her eyes and looked frustrated.

“Promise me no talking or texting during our lunch.”

Ouch. That hurt. I know I’m a bit of a Crackberry addict, but here it was out of the mouths of babes.

I promised her not to touch it, and I put it in my purse so the blinking red light wouldn’t torment me through the meal. It was really, really hard not to pick it up. But I managed it. And we had a great conversation about turning 8 and what she’s been reading and we squeezed in several rounds of hangman on our Nutella-stained paper placemats (I take my kids to the fanciest places.)

But her insightful comment made me think about the whole phenomenon of “half-attention,” where our parenting time gets diluted into the “hmmmmms?” and “reallys?” and “OKs” we dole out while our brains are actually tuned into the email or Facebook feeds on our cellphones.

Kids pick up on this from a very young age. They know when mom or dad is not really paying attention. And very soon, dear parents, often sooner than you think, they will have their own cellphones. And when you ask them what happened at school that day, they will answer “hmmmmm?” while typing madly on their own screens.

Ask yourself:

  • How often are you talking on your cellphone when your kids are in the car, instead of talking to them?
  • Do you allow your telephone to disturb you during family dinners?
  • Do you check your email and/or Facebook or Twitter feeds while watching your kid’s soccer game, hanging out at the playground or taking them out to restaurants?
  • Do your children or spouse ever have to ext you to get your attention, even when you are all under the same roof?
  • Have you recently found yourself looking at your phone instead of your child while s/he is talking to you?
  • Have you ever looked up from your phone to realize your kid had given up on your attention and wandered off to do something on their own, and you didn’t even notice?
  • Or worse, especially with little kids: Have you ever looked up from your phone to find they have gotten themselves in an unsafe situation, an altercation with another kid, or just taken off without you?

If you’ve answered yes to two or more, you might want to think about the impact your cellphone habits are having on your family relationships. After all, you are ultimately the one in control, and it is possible to turn it off, or down or put it away during key moments. Because your messages will still be waiting for you after dinner, or your daughter’s swim meet, or the playground.

PDF24    Send article as PDF