We have been lacking a family computer for many years. My son, now in the 4th grade, was borrowing my or my spouse’s laptop on a near daily basis to complete his school work. Thinking he was far too young for a laptop, we thought having a real family computer… one set up in the “playroom” (aka the family room next to the kitchen) would be a perfect transition. There we could monitor his actions on the computer and all get comfortable in the land of real technology. So Santa (aka the Uncle who works at Apple) delivered an iMac on Christmas. While we are still working on setting up all the built-in parental controls Apple provides in their operating system, we decided that it was time for our son to have his own email account.
Before we set up the account, I sat down with my son and we agreed on 7 simple rules.
1. Mom owns the email account and Mom can take it away at any time for any reason, especially for bad behavior.
2. The email is loaded onto Mom’s iPhone and Dad’s iPod Touch. We can view it at any time, for any reason, without having to ask your permission. Again, see Rule #1.
3. Protect your email password. Don’t give anyone your password. Keep it safe. That said, if you change your password, you must share the new password with your parents or Rule #1 goes into effect.
4. Don’t open an email from a stranger or email that you don’t know. Tell Mom and Dad if you get an email from someone you don’t know.
5. If anyone sends you an email with inappropriate language, pictures, or videos, then you must tell your parents immediately. Don’t send anything inappropriate to anyone either. If you don’t know if it is appropriate or not, just ask Mom or Dad. We can help you.
6. If anyone ever asks for you to send photos of your private parts, you must tell your parents. This is illegal and wrong. We are here to protect you. Don’t ask anyone to do this either.
7. Use grammar and punctuation in your emails. Don’t be lazy. Practice typing the right way.
We may be far behind the times in terms of tech, but this was a huge set for us. While the adults in our house use email on a daily basis for work and socially to stay connected, our son hasn’t needed an email account. Now with Common Core standards wanting 5th graders to be able to type two pages before they move on to middle school, I knew that having an email account would be a good education for my son. He gets to practice his typing skills… which are so painfully slow that I have to take huge deep breaths while he’s at the computer to avoid losing my patience and just doing it for him. I also wanted this to be the beginning of our dialogue into the world of social media. He’s learning how to interact with his friends and family members in a virtual way.
I know soon enough he’ll want a smart phone and a Facebook page and, I wish it wasn’t so, Snapchat. Until then, we are keeping it simple with an email account. He’ll have to wait for all the really cool (and more dangerous) aspects of social media for when he’s actually old enough to legally have one.