Email with training wheels

January 17, 2012 in kids and email,kids and technology

Bird’s question about email made me realize that the carefully constructed protections I had created around my children since their birth was getting holes. And they were inevitable and irreparable and *sigh* part of growing up. Bird wanted email and she had done her research. She wanted to know my hesitations so she could talk to her friends and come up with answers. She knew about viruses. She didn’t care if I read every email she sent or received. Honestly, if it wasn’t for the wrecking ball image in my head, I would have said, “Sure, this email can’t be too harmful.”

Instead, I said the more sensible, “Give me until Sunday to think and pray about it.” That gave me four days. Test #1 . I called up a trusted friend with four kids. Her youngest is Bird’s age. Email was not a big concern to her, especially if I had Bird’s password. She said that in the world of tweens and teenagers, texting and Facebook make emails almost obsolete. I started to feel better. Email was a baby step to functioning independently in the world of technology.
Test #2. Google kids and email. I wondered if there were risks I had not thought of. I had not thought much about spam and the frequently inappropriate content it contains. And Bird had reminded me about viruses (which is usually not a problem on Macs). Turns out there are a few companies who are willing to help parents create a highly controlled email account for kids. Windows Live Family Safety has good parental controls that allows parents to control a kid’s email account and monitor where and when they use the internet. Alas, it doesn’t work with my Mac. AOL has a kids AOL. It is downloadable software that comes with web browsing controls, email controls, online time limits, and activity reports. Sounds great, but again doesn’t work on my Mac.
Clearly it is time, based on the interest of my oldest and the number of homework assignments that require Internet research, to look into software with parental web browsing controls and maybe time limits. It isn’t that Bird can’t be trusted  but that even well-informed adults stumble upon inappropriate content or give their email away to a company and end up with piles of spam.  So finding a good web browser with parental controls in on my list of things to do. For now, I decided to tackle email only.
I ended up getting Bird an account through Zoobuh. It cost $12/year. It gives me choices to approve all incoming mail, view all outgoing mail,  control the contacts list, control what kinds of messages she can receive (pictures, video files, word files, etc.), and block email to or from certain people.
Zoobuh has a kid friendly interface and is easy to use. I know that in a year or two Bird will need a regular email. For now, I want to teach her about Spam, about when and where it is okay to share emails (and other personal info), about how to know if a file is safe to open.
We set up the account and gave her a few ground rules like no checking/writing emails until homework is done and no signing up for anything online without our permission. But I think Zoobuh is a good start for me Bird.
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{ 2 comments… read them below or add one }

MsByn January 18, 2012 at 7:37 pm

I had this issue several times over the years with my kids (my oldest is now twenty, so we started before facebook!) and have always come to the conclusion that as long as they don’t consider it their ‘right’ and they know I’ll check on them often for their own safety, that this is just another part of having a relationship with them.

This parenting stuff is hard as the world keeps changing so much, though! When my oldest was 11-13, we didn’t even have internet at all!


Laura January 18, 2012 at 8:59 pm

Ms. Byn, thank you so much for stopping by. It encourages me to hear from moms who have been there and done that. I suspect email will be low on the list of concerns. But it still felt like a big new world….


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