If you're looking for an expert to tell you that there is one magical age when a child is ready to have an email address, you could be setting yourself up for disappointment. Because although it might be the norm for a child to be in middle school when she first gets an email address, most experts agree that the age when you first let your child get an "@" can only be determined by you.
For Bethany Stephens, mother of two, that age is 9.
Kim Estes, founder of Savvy Parents Safe Kids wants parents to consider these factors when they decide to allow their child to get an email address:
Stephens says her oldest daughter, a 9-year-old third grader, just got her first email address this week. "She's part of the digital age and I'd rather teach her about managing and understanding online resources than preventing her from having access."
But Stephens is also being cautious. "Her email address won't be available to anyone she chooses; it will be provided to only a select few (less than 10) family members and friends. For now, all incoming mail will copy into my inbox for security."
If you're social-media savvy and want your child to be as well (when she's ready, of course!) you might choose to go the same route as Tiffany Markman. "When my daughter was born, I immediately bought the global and local domains for her name. I also created a Twitter account, a gmail account and a few other important bits."
"She's not even 2, but already she's kitted out for the world of digital communication. However, I won't let her use any of these things — including her own Facebook profile — before she's clearly mature enough to understand the etiquette, the dangers, the responsibility and basic time management. I have no idea when that'll be (I imagine it depends largely on the child), but I'm not expecting to have this negotiation much before age 12 or so."
You might have decided long ago that your child would not have an email address until she reached a certain age. But now, you might be divorced, living far from a family member or in another situation where her ability to email would be beneficial. And you might just choose to rethink your "email policy."
Author and single mom expert, Kerri Zane reminds parents that sometimes there are family circumstances that might make it beneficial for a child to have email. "Particularly for single moms with difficult former spouses, oftentimes texting or email is the only way to connect with your child when he or she is in the other parent's custody," says Zane.
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