Email for kids: If? When? How?

Is someone at your house begging for his or her very own email account? Maybe because "all my friends have one"? The question usually comes up before middle school, when "everybody" is getting IM accounts and cellphones too, as – developmentally – the social scene kicks into gear. As kid virtual worlds get increasingly ubiquitous, though, adding another social outlet, the pressure to get any single communications tool may ease somewhat. In fact, pretty soon kids won't even care about email addresses because it seems most teens only use email when communicating with adults (they prefer messaging via social-network sites). We'll see (nobody's researched this yet, as far as I've seen). Anyway, in case you'd like to see a bunch of other parents' views on this question, there was a lively debate (in Comments) over at Slashdot about giving kids email accounts and how (it is "news for nerds," after all, so there's some great stuff about proxy servers and technical means of spam avoidance), as well as some interesting evidence of different parenting schools of thought (don't be surprised by the one or two off-color comments, though they're much in the minority). We didn't feel rushed to get our 10-year-old one – it seemed more a necessity as we were traveling overseas, so he could keep in touch with friends independently. Now that he's 11 and we're back in the States, he hardly ever checks or uses it and, interestingly, IM seems to have been replaced by Google Chat and phone texting as the primary social tools of 6th graders. Would love to get fellow parents' views on electronic communications, kid-style – via anne[at], or here in our forum.

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