Just after my son turned 8, he asked me one of those questions that strike terror in a parent's heart: "Can I have my own email account?" Can you what?!? An email account? Sure! Let's make you more accessible to online predators, shall we? Great idea!
That was my first reaction. But then he told me he wanted an account so he could email his friend, who already had his own account. And his other friend, who also has her own account. And his other, other friend, who is younger but already has an email account. And I started to wonder if maybe I was just a little bit out of step with modern life. Other parents seem a whole lot more relaxed about kids and email.
Rebecca Eckler in Mommyish says she got her daughter an email account when she was just 6 weeks old! Okay, it was Eckler herself who used it to give her family updates. And she dropped it after a couple of weeks. But then when her daughter was 9, she set her up with her own Gmail account, and now her daughter emails her family regularly.
I did end up getting my son an email account. I have his password and can check up on it to make sure it's secure and there's nothing creepy going on. I tried to set it up so that all of his incoming and outgoing emails get forwarded to my email account, but of course I screwed that up. Now it's just my emails to him that get forwarded to my email account, which is totally unnecessary. I don't know what I'm doing. SIGH.
Anyway, he just emails his friends, mostly to tell them how he's doing in Minecraft. Oh yeah, Minecraft. This is another scary bit of the Internet my son has been exploring -- apparently you can play with other people on the same server, or something?
I don't know! I'm kind of out of my depth already, and maybe that's what worries me most. My son is turning into that SNL "Company Computer Guy" who seems to know more about how to work my iPhone and laptop than I do. When did that happen?
When I stop worrying and try to love the computer geek, I realize two things. One, I need to try harder to keep up with technology. And two, this is just another reminder of the many ways parents must relinquish control over their kids, little by little. It's called independence, and it's something we're supposed to want for our kids. But we have to balance that with guidance and some supervision. So now, I think, it's about teaching my son good netiquette and security. Which he probably already knows better than I do. But going through the motions of showing him that I care will still matter to him. Right?
Here's some Internet safety tips for families.
How old do you think kids should be before they have their own email account?
Image via Jim Sneddon/Flickr