Why I Let My 8 Year Old Have an Email Account

My son had been pestering me for weeks.

“How old do I have to be to get email?” “When can I get an email account?” “Can I get an email account now?” “How about now? Am I old enough now?”

Every time he would ask for an email account, I would ask the same questions.

“Why do you want an email account?” “Who is so important to an 8 year-old to email?”

Why I Let My 8 Year Old Have Email

His logic wasn’t rational.  Like wanting to be able to email me to let me know where he was.  While in our house.  Or “texting” us from the bathroom while we’re in a store so that we know he’s okay.

Because knowing someone’s taking a dump is high on my priority list of information needs.

My son had recently been bequeathed my husband’s ancient iPod touch, which was nothing more than a glorified Minecraft machine. It has no 3G or 4G network, and the only access to anything cool is by the WiFi network in our home. In order for him to email us, he’d have to be in our house with us.  Which doesn’t make email the most efficient method of communication when he can’t find his baseball mitt.

After many, many, many requests, and some decent proposals and reasons why, my son’s questioning broke me down and I agreed to let him have an email account.  The persuasive arguments that won me over were the ones that appealed to my soft side. He wanted to be able to keep in touch with his cousin, his aunts and uncles, and his grandparents.

Having our family spread out all over the country, how can I say no to that?

I didn’t embark on this lightly.  My husband and I set down some very strict guidelines. I had to have access to his password.  I was going to monitor all of the emails coming in and going out from his email address. He wouldn’t be allowed to click on any link he received without asking. And he wasn’t allowed to email anyone that wasn’t in our family without asking permission.

Once the rules were put in place and agreed upon, we registered his email address and got it set up on his iPod and my retired laptop.

And then the emailing began.

At first, he just emailed me and my husband. They were simple one word emails, like “hi!” and “awesome!” and grew to short sentences like “i love you!”

But once he really got the hang of things, his emails became an extension of himself.

I began to see his humor.  To see his wickedly fast wit, getting all the jokes we’d reply with and volleying equally funny ones back to us. To see his knowledge of when it’s most effective to use ALL CAPS.

And then he started taking photos of all of us and sending them to our inbox.

Quick little snapshots that I thought he was taking for the fun of hearing the shutter. But he quickly became adept at tweaking those head shots in whatever app he could find on his phone.

The day he sent me this photo from his iPod was the day that I fully embraced him having an email address:

8 year old email

That’s me. Smiling at him. And my son adding his own artistic flair to what would otherwise be a pretty boring photo. He could have typed “Gina” or “Mommy” or “Loser.” But he chose “She…” And I love it.

Pictures like this give me added insight in to what’s going on in that small but mighty brain my son has. It sheds a little light on how he sees me. And that is always more warm and pleasant than how I see myself.

Months later, the novelty has worn off a little, and the volume of emails being sent and received has trickled off a bit, but my son still enjoys telling folks he has his own email account.

More importantly, he loves being able keep in touch with family on his own.  Grandparents are sending him short emails about things they think are interesting. His cousin sends book recommendations that she thinks he should read, like their own private book club. My son gets to establish his own relationship with family independent of his parents, and he loves how that makes him feel.

I know there will come a day where we will have to more closely worry about what he’s using his email address for. But for the time being, I’m just going to enjoy getting pinged by my son, telling me that he thinks I’m awesome.

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