Email and Kids

In Brief

Email is everywhere. The dangers that lurk via email can be as bad as the web. Parents must be actively involved in teaching kids about email and what to do when they get an email from someone they don't know. Most of the popular, free email services aren't designed with kids in mind. Kid-specific email services offer age-appropriate ease-of-use, spam filtering, and optional parental controls that are ideally suited for kids.

Overview

Email has become as basic as a telephone in most homes.  Like a telephone, email allows for two-way communication, which may or may not be with people we know or trust.  It's critically important that parents engage their kids early and often about appropriate and inappropriate uses of email and what to do if they get an email from someone they don't know.  Most importantly, because many sites sell email addresses to third party marketers, kids should hold back from giving out their email addresses to web sites that ask for them.

Parents' Role

Make every effort to guide your children when it comes to using email.  Unlike visiting a web page, exchanging email is social and interactive.  Children need to learn email fundamentals: good etiquette; that anything they send can be forwarded; some steps to take if they receive cyberbullying messages or aggressive emails from other kids; and what to do if they start getting emails from strangers.  Likewise, help your kids by making sure their email accounts have strong passwords.  A strong password uses capital and lowercase letters, numbers, and special characters like !#$*& as part of the password.

Software Help

While most of the popular, free email services are great at spam and virus protection, they don't necessarily offer the ease of use, parental controls, and protection from online predators that some parents may ideally want.  Sometimes, parents will simply feel more comfortable if their kids use email services that offer more online protection and options.

Some of the built-in parental controls for Macs and Windows computers will give you an added layer of email security but may not address every parent's concerns.  Email services geared specifically for kids will allow parents to authorize who their kids can send emails to as well as who is authorized to email their kids.  Most parents are looking for a way to allow their kids to email family, friends, and teachers safely while authorizing who can email their kids.

Email Services Just for Kids

If you feel as though you need help managing your child's email, then you may want to consider services that are specifically designed for kids.  These kid-specific services are generally designed with fun colors and clear buttons, so that they are fun and easy-to-use.  However, they also let you easily manage features you'd be concerned about such as setting time limits, generating reports, and specifying who can email your kids. 

If you feel that kid-specific services are right for you, consider checking out ZooBuh at www.zoobuh.com.  ZooBuh offers all the standard features you'd expect in an email system.  It also includes many parent-friendly features like the ability to approve individual emails, restrict the days and times of login, manage who can send and receive email from your child, and more.  If you are looking for more comprehensive management of your child's email, then ZooBuh may be a solution worth exploring.

Family Discussion Starters

Issues related to email can be complicated. Talk to your kids about etiquette, get to the bottom of some of their assumptions, and give them some guidance on how to handle uncertain situations:

If you send a "private" email to a friend, can that "private" email be seen by someone else that you never wanted to see it?

If a friend or someone at school sends you an email and says things that hurt your feelings or make you feel uncomfortable, what should you do?

If you got an email from someone you didn't know, what would you do?

Let's say that someone sends you an email to take a look at a web site that mommy or daddy have said is inappropriate, would you go to that web site?

Are all the web links people send through email safe for you to click on?

Is it safe to trust every email you get?

Sometimes inappropriate email can look like its coming from someone you know. How can you know if an email is really safe or not?

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