Recently I blogged about our approach on kids online: we have lived up to our decision to be more proactive about using internet together. This has resulted in my 6 yo daughter wanting to read about e.g. (basic) programming instead of an evening story (!?!). After reading about ones and zeros, electromagnetic waves, light waves, the difference between mobile data and wifi, SMTPs and IMAPs, and a whole heap of other stuff I barely know, obviously also testing a few things, she wanted to have her own email account.
Wow, never thought I’d set up an email account for a 6 yo who barely reads but that’s exactly what I did. There are worse thibgs to be interested in! We agreed on the email account being a common one for now.
Catching the tidal wave of interest has had some very positive consequences I didn’t anticipate:
- A lot of quality time spent together: there is no way she is able to navigate on her own. Yet.
- This really spurs her to read English too (yeah, I may have “forgotten” to mention one could in many places switch the language…)! Also, emailing with granny is motivating her to learn to read and write English too (English spelling is difficult compared to Finnish and Swedish).
- She wants to learn to type as fast as I do. In my opinion a very useful basic skill in the current world.
- I’ve come across many important topics to discuss like letter and email privacy (therefore we agreed on having a common one for now. No need for a private one yet), Internet safety and age limits.
We tried to set up a Gmail first but as it is linked to all Google services, one needs to be 13 to use them (for a good reason!). So we used a provider for just email instead. But the age limit had to be explained. And why it is important always to log out as well. We’ve also had amazing talks about internet being full of content that is too difficult for children, how it is easy to go somewhere you didn’t mean to, how easy it is to lie about who you are online and therefore one shouldn’t trust everything online. We googled Dads name and found a picture of him that was on the website of his previous employer a few years ago illustrating how things you put in never come out, so we need to think of what we put out there.
Sometimes I wonder what is age appropriate but she has such a huge need to understand why. I think it is a good thing she asks and we talk: I like that she wants to know how it all works and not just to consume the services, and I rather it be me who gives her the basics now than figuring out from a friend or through her own trial and error later.
At what age do other kids start emailing? When have you been talked to/ raised topics about internet safety and privacy?