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Privacy & Data

The First E-Mail Address: Raising an Internet-Savvy Child

When I was growing up, getting a phone in your room (or even your own line!), if you were fortunate enough, was a major step in the process between feeling like a child and growing into an adult.  Like driving your own car or getting your own bank account, getting your own phone was a step towards independence and a nexus moment between a trusting parent and a maturing child. Today, the phone is no longer even the standard communication method between two 13-year-olds.  E-mail, IM and social networks are the most common forms of communication between teens and new studies have shown that Generation Y is becoming increasingly reliant on e-mail as their preferred form of communication.  This means kids are growing up to become even more reliant on the internet and technology in their lives. 

There is no reason to think this trend is going to reverse itself, so when setting up e-mail addresses for your kids, you should work off the assumption that this will become a primary form of communication they will use for the near future and should be approached with that level of importance. So you’re probably thinking to yourself, “I want my child to enjoy the benefits of the internet as I do, but I am worried about what might happen when I’m not there.”  Adam Thierer of the Progress & Freedom Foundation put out a report about parental controls and talking to your kids about safe online use. is another great resource for keeping your kids safe online — the site has tips about online usage and how to report problems you run into. There is no one right way to teach your kids to be safe and responsible online, but as noted in Thierer’s report — in the end, the responsibility for teaching your children proper etiquette online comes from you the parent.  The same approach to have towards teaching them to know right and wrong offline applies to their activities online.  Your kids are going to work off of whatever guidelines and principles you instill in them because at the end of the day, they are still your kids and your responsibility.