We sat down with Brian Fontenot, Founder and CEO of BLF Foundation whose missions is to provide minority college students with mentorship and scholarship opportunities in an effort to help advance our future leaders. Felicia Meadows who is a school counselor at Prince George’s County Public Schools with over 15 years of experience. And Jeff Ervine who is the Founder and CEO of Bridg-it, which is a sustainable solution to bullying cyberbullying and harassment, to talk about kids email tips and when students should get an email address.
Listen along on our podcast
When should your kids get their first email address? What are some tips for allowing your kids to have an email address while keeping them safe?
When having an email address, it is very important for a child to be able to establish their brand. You want to do it early, something when they are in their pre-teens because what happens down the road is their name will be taken. That hurts them when they are applying for jobs and they want to be able to have that professional brand name. Not only that, but we want to be able to have it for longevity purposes. So start something with them at thirteen, they can carry that with them through sixteen, eighteen, twenty-one, etc. This also gives you a good opportunity as a parent to teach your children how to practice responsible communication. This is your opportunity to teach them how to use email effectively by starting early and giving them opportunities to make mistakes, but to have teachable and coachable moments along the way. –Brian Fontenot, BLF Foundation
What we have found is that kids are now getting plugged in usually around fourth grade at school and that includes email addresses. At that point in time, you need to add the lessons and provide the guidance on how to use it, when to use it, and taking the first steps with email. –Jeff Ervine, Bridg-it
My suggestion is seventh or eighth grade even though we know young people are getting email much earlier. I say, “thirteen” just for the maturity aspect and understanding how to use it responsible and recognizing how to use it. Parents still need to monitor at this age because as we see all the time on the news, there are a lot of children’s games that kids sign up for and there can be a lot of adult content that goes into this email. Parents need to monitor minors and monitor the content that children are receiving. –Felicia Meadows, Prince George’s County Public Schools
There are so many bad people out there and so many choices your child can make at a very young wisdom-level as they call it. These decisions are made based on a very limited set of experiences. Your children need you to check in. How do you keep clear communication as a parent?
Being a parent is all about guidance, right? At the playground, at home, at the dinner table, around tools, etc. The internet is another tool and so is email. It can be very powerful and it is a powerful communication tool, but things can go very wrong in emails. When things go wrong, often younger kids don’t have the confidence to say, “Hey mom or dad, I just clicked on a porn site or someone sent me a link to this, how do I get rid of it? It’s ruining my browser.” You have to have a clear communication channel back to the parent. The parents have to say, “Hey, if things go wrong, no matter how bad, you need to come to me because I can help fix it.” –Jeff Ervine, Bridg-it
Is there anything you have ever heard about digital safety or kids email addresses where parents will say, “I heard this…”
What I know for a fact and I’m sure most of us know this, but it’s that we cannot keep up with social media no matter what we do. Every time we look up, there is something new that is happening. A lot of parents are not tech savvy, even email wise. It also becomes an issue when the parents do not have tech access or internet access at home but their kids do at school. Parents have no clue in many of these cases. –Felicia Meadows, Prince George’s County Public Schools
I hear the, “Schools are out there and on top of it, managing everything and they want to manage everything.” The reality is that they are not and that they do not want to manage your child’s internet interactions. At the end of the day, they do not have the tools or the time to really address these issues that manifest themselves in the schools and so everyone wants to put the burden on the teachers and the principals, but people have to come together to solve this problem. The approach and the attitude to the responsibility around these types of communications have to change. We have to shift. –Jeff Ervine, Bridg-it
One of the things that I hear often is that there are not social controls that are available to filter out certain requests. What I have found from a lot of social media platforms is that it may be just an education piece that is missing because there are a lot of filters and things that these social media networks use and offer. For example, Gmail has a lot of filtering tools and you can even delegate your email to someone else. For a parent, being able to set up those types of controls and limits allows them 1) to be able to still teach their children responsibility which is important and 2) to give limits that you can slowly release over time in order to allow your children to make their own great decisions. –Brian Fontenot, BLF Foundation
When you give your kids an email address, consider Gmail. Most kids in the schools that I speak to have one. There is a thing in the settings where you can forward all incoming mail to one of the parents or both of the parents. You can label it in your inbox, as a parent, so you can have a little bucket that doesn’t overwhelm you but where you can go to check on it so you can know what it’s going on. –Josh Ochs, SmartSocial