When it comes to creating a personal email account, you and your child should discuss the topic when you feel they need one and are mature enough to use it appropriately. Setting up an email address for children might be lower down the list of parental concerns than mobile apps like Instagram, Snapchat, TikTok and Facebook, among others. However, there is still plenty to be wary of when it comes to setting up an email account for children.
There are endless benefits to having an email account. It's a great organisational tool and, with most things online requiring an email address, provides a gateway to a lot of other activities. Email is a powerful way to communicate, and it will likely become a tool your children will use for the rest of their lives.
Most email providers have a minimum age requirement of thirteen to sign up for an email address. This is very much like some apps that your children may be asking to download soon. However, it's common today for schools to issue email addresses to students. Gmail, iCloud email, and Outlook are free, and they offer ways to set up and manage family accounts for children under the age of thirteen. There are a few paid options suitable for younger children, with built-in features that make them more appropriate for children. These include Tocomail, Zoobuh, and KidsEmail.
If you're looking for tutoring support, a Google account with Gmail now comes with Google Meet, which can be used to set up one-to-one tutoring sessions. All this can be organised via the Google Calendar app.
Remember that the email address your child wants to use at thirteen will likely be different from the one they’re using by the time they’re applying for universities and jobs. It’s best to keep it simple and professional, with some variation on their name such as “email@example.com” or “firstname.lastname@example.org”. If those addresses are already taken, avoid adding numbers if possible, especially numbers that include personally identifiable information, such as your child’s birthday, birth year, street address or postal code. Instead, try reordering the names and initials until you find an available username.
For cybersecurity and online safety reasons, choose a password that's different from other accounts your child may have. In this way, if one online account is compromised, the others will still be secure. Strong passwords include a mix of numbers, letters, and symbols.
It’s always a good idea to add a backup email address or phone number, should your child forget their password or get locked out, and most email providers suggest this. Using your own email address and phone number is a good option.
The most common email providers have free parental control options, and those that don’t typically have settings you can adjust to make the account more child friendly. These can help you monitor the account, too. It's important for families to be on the same page as children start to explore the digital world, and ongoing conversations around digital citizenship are a great way to help children be responsible online.
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