One of my followers picked up on that and asked if I would write a bit more about the decision to let her have email, and the logistics of setting that up. I decided to make it into an Ask Cloud post, because we're still figuring out the details and I'd love to hear what other people think about this, too.
First: the decision to let her have email. We delayed it for awhile. She's been asking for email since she got a Kindle Fire for Christmas. She might even have started asking for email before she knew that Santa was going to heed her repeated pleas for a Kindle Fire.
At first, we resisted because we didn't see what she would do with email. She said she'd email her friends, but that wasn't exactly a strong argument. We'd already had to talk to her about how she can't just make plans with her friends without checking with us first, and email seemed likely to exacerbate that problem.
Then I started to think ahead a bit. At some point, she's going to get online. She'll get a phone, and she'll start texting with her friends and using whatever social media app is in with her group. She'd already found a game she could play on her Kindle Fire that was networked and allowed her to interact with the other kids in her class who played it. We weren't going to be able to block her off from the online world, and we don't really want to try.
But we do need to get her acclimated to that world, and the more guarded behavior it requires. We need her to learn that any message committed to the network has to be assumed to be public, even if she doesn't intend it to be so, and even if most times it her messages remain between her and the intended recipient. We need her to learn to think at least a little about worst case scenarios before she sends anything.
I started to think about how I would teach all of these things, and I realized it would be sooooo much easier to teach them before we hit the age of hormones. I realized it would be easier to teach them now, when it doesn't feel like a huge invasion of her privacy for us to have her email password and for my email address to be the rescue address on her account, and when she's still willing to come to us with most of her questions.
Mr. Snarky was still not won over. I think I would have won the day eventually, but in the end our trip to France is what changed is mind. We took a picture of one or both of us on one of our phones every day, and sent it home. He realized it would be so much more fun to send it directly to the kids, instead of relying on others to show it to them.
And so, the decision was made to get Pumpkin email.
Next, we had to settle on the rules. They ended up being pretty simple:
- Only send email to people in your address book, and tell us before you add anyone new.
- Don't read an email from someone you don't know without showing it to us first.
- Don't send any pictures to anyone without checking with us first.
We said that as she gets older, we'll relax the rules a bit. We'll figure out what that means when we get there.
Then we set her up an account with Gmail. Since she's not yet 13, it is technically my account, but it is in her name. She helped us pick out the handle.
So far, the email experience has been good. She has sent some emails to friends. She emails with my parents a bit, and last week, while she was in Arizona with my parents, she sent me an email that was at least 50% emoji. That pretty much made my week.
Do your kids have email? How old were they when they got it? Have you had any problems?
Completely unrelated plug: I am offering an online seminar on running better meetings. It is enrolling now. It is short and cheap and there will probably be somewhat funny pictures in my slides because that's how I roll.