Deciding when your kid should have an email address

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MailyThe Motherlode blog at the New York Times has a really thoughtful, and thought-provoking article, about the right age to get an email address for your child. KJ Dell’Antonia notes that “the possible problem lies not in the e-mail account itself, but in all you can do once you have that account.”

What can you do? Well, sign up for lots of things with your own email (and then confirm the sign-ups). Your kid could be on Facebook, or Instagram, or whatever, and you might not know it. Dell’Antonia solves that issue by funnelling emails through her own account (“They get an e-mail, I get an e-mail, and because I set up the accounts, only I know the passwords”).

There’s a really interesting discussion following the article. One comment zeroes in on a concern of mine:

I set up an email account for my 11-yr old son. I too know the password and can see the emails, which have been harmless. The problem has been the one that is caused by most electronics: he wants to “check it” all the time. I limit the checking to once or twice per day, but that does not stop the asking. Books, toys, outdoors all lose their luster when the electronic elephant is in the room.

That’s just it: My daughter is in fourth grade, and I don’t want to deal with lots of requests to check email. I suppose checking email once a day would be OK, and if that’s the rule, then that’s the rule.

Check out the article and discussion at When Should a Child Get an E-Mail Account?.


  • Hold off until middle school – we then had a ‘contract’ drawn up that covers all electronic devices – phones, ipods, et al – spelling out what behavior is approved and expected and consequences for poor behavior, grades, etc. Not easy, but can’t be ignored. Right now all email that comes in is forwarded to my account so I don’t have to log in to see it.

    • I like the contract idea, Joy. All of this is a challenge, especially with so many of my daughter’s friends (she’s in 4th grade) getting more and more internet-connected devices.

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