Since I wrote in February about our decision to allow ten-year-old “Jack” to have an email account, a number of people have asked me about the rules I said Jack would acquire along with his new privilege.
My husband and I did indeed draw up a list of rules to go with Jack’s email account. We posted them above the family computer (which is in a public area of the house–not his room). I offer them here to anyone who may find them useful in setting rules for your own child.
A few points to consider regarding the list of rules below:
- There are seventeen rules here. Yes, seventeen. My son does well with structure. If he finds himself in a gray area, he likes to be able to look up a rule and figure out where he stands. (The child of two lawyers–go figure.) If your child prefers a less structured environment, you might want to pare down the list.
- Most of the seventeen rules boil down to three basic principles:
- Protect your personal information;
- Don’t click on anything or talk to anyone without permission; and
- At this stage of your life, you have no online privacy with respect to your parents.
- A few of these rules will mean little to a ten-year-old unless you talk about them. For example, we had to explain rule #10 to Jack. We will have that conversation with him many more times over the course of his adolescent and teen years.
Jack’s Email Rules
- We have to approve an address before you’re allowed to email with someone, open an email from someone new or add someone to your address book.
- If you don’t recognize an address in your inbox, don’t touch the email & come get one of us.
- No opening attachments or clicking on links without approval.
- We can and will access your emails at any time. You must give us your password(s).
- No accessing your account from any computers outside of our family computers without permission from one of us. If you do access your account from another computer, you must logout when you are finished.
- Don’t click “remember me” if you log on to your email from another computer.
- Don’t access your email account from anyone’s mobile device.
- Never send to anyone in an email the following: your real address, phone number, any passwords, our cell phone numbers, your birthday/date, social security number or any other identifying information–not even to someone you know.
- Don’t be rude or nasty.
- Don’t email to anyone anything you wouldn’t be comfortable seeing on the front page of the local newspaper.
- Don’t use “Reply all.” Many adults don’t even understand how to use this properly.
- If someone emails you telling you you won something: you didn’t. Come get one of us.
- Don’t go into the “Spam” folder. If you think an email you want may have mistakenly found its way in there, ask one of us to look in there for you.
- For the first six months–at least–get one of us any time there is an email in your inbox from anyone not on your “approved” list.
- You are not allowed to use any products in Google except Gmail without our permission.
- No “chatting” or “IMing.”
- YOUR EMAIL ACCOUNT IS A PRIVILEGE. WE CAN REVOKE THIS PRIVILEGE AT ANY TIME. WE CAN RESTRICT THE PRIVILEGE IN ANY WAY AT ANY TIME. WE EXPECT YOU TO FOLLOW THESE RULES IF YOU WANT TO KEEP THIS PRIVILEGE.
All of these rules point to the notion that at the age of ten, it’s probably not a good idea to just toss our kids into the digital world and let them fend for themselves. Rather, give them the tools to venture in a few steps at a time under our supervision–while they’ll still accept that supervision without constant bickering–and gradually, as they prove themselves, we can hang back until they’re ready to run on their own.