Curious Girl has recently learned that a slightly younger friend of her has her own e-mail account. As she learned this via borrowing my e-mail account to send a message to this (distant) friend, she naturally started asking for her own e-mail account. Politica and I agreed to investigate, but discovered that gmail won't set up an account for anyone under 13. So I'm pondering whether to set up an account named Curious.Girl there with my b-date. Given the privacy issues on Facebook, I can't see myself being persuaded to avoid the age restrictions there. But on e-mail? Not sure. Of course, this little hangup has given CG more time to discuss this matter with her friends at school, and she's coming home saying things like, "Oh, one of my friends says we should get yahoo.com on our computer because it works much better than gmail." Looks like at least the claim of having e-mail accounts is emerging in Grade 2.
I've been trying to remember keywords from some of Geeky Mom's posts on her kids and screen time. As I recall, she's been playing games with her kids since they were young, and advocates for children's privacy online--as well as parental conversations! Politica and I have set up some parental controls on Safari for the computer that sits in our living room--setting up a bunch of different game sites on the toolbar for CG to access as she wishes--but as CG doesn't actually want to spend a ton of time online, we've never needed to set rules about screen time or access. (The first weekend she had a Webkinz, she probably played 4 hrs a day, but after that....not so much.)
So, the e-mail. One of my friends says that she set up her kids' first e-mail accounts so that all incoming mail forwards to her account--she talked about that up front with the kids, so it's "not creepy," and it lets her say to her daughter, "you know, I didn't really like the tone of that e-mail from so-and-so" when some insults go flying around. I've seen sites advocating kids' email services, like Zoobuh, and I've seen sites recommending that parents check their kids' emails.
I don't want to teach CG that the internet is a dangerous place--well, at least, I don't want to teach her that it's ONLY a dangerous place. I tell her, for example, that if she wants to go looking for videos on youtube, she has to do with with one of us sitting with her, because it's very easy for the "related videos" sidebar on youtube to feature things that are not-so-related and not-very-appropriate for her. I haven't taught her not to talk to strangers so much as not to *go with* strangers.
Ah, lots of rambling...hard to compose good sentences here when I don't really have a well-thought-out philosophy of my own to share here. But I'm curious about how folks with older kids have navigated their kids moving online. What are the perils and pitfalls?
I'm leaning towards letting CG have an e-mail account, but telling her that e-mail is for communicating with people far away (she asked whether she could e-mail her teacher, and I said no, that she should talk with her teacher and if there was something she couldn't talk about, we'd help her write a note). I'm leaning more toward a learn-by-doing, in other words, than a learn-in-the-protected-kids-email world.
But what would Geeky Mom do? Or what do you do?