Kids are using email at an earlier age than ever before. And it can be a really useful thing to let them communicate with grandparents and other relatives that are spread around the world. But, how do we keep kids safe when using email. There are a number of ways to do this, and we’ve used a combined approach over the years with our daughter.

Using a Parents Account

This is the simplest way to get a kid started using email. It gives you complete control over what is sent and received (just be careful what windows are open and don’t leave them alone on your email account in case you have a surprise Christmas gift ordered on Amazon). You can create a personalized email address through your Gmail account using plus addressing (one method of doing that is outlined here

We let our daughter use my wife’s account for a while before she got her own account. It worked out reasonably well while she was in elementary school. There were just a few emails a week. We could filter what she saw and what she sent.

Special Kids Email Accounts

Once our daughter turned eleven, it seemed like she had enough friends with email accounts of their own that we should get her one. We decided to get her an account specifically targeted towards kid users. There are a number of services out there, but we went with Zoobuh ( It gives you a lot of parental control which you can turn on and off depending on your kid and how involved you feel you need to be. The features in particular that we like are:

  • Controlling who your child can receive email from. This is key for filtering out spam but you might also have a relative who tends to forward things that just aren’t appropriate for your child. ZooBuh has a contact list that kids can receive from. Email from someone not on that list needs to be approved by you. We have some people who we’ve not added to the contact list and we approve on an item-by-item basis.
  • Controlling who your child can send to. This hasn’t really been an issue for us, but it could be if your child ends up getting approached by someone on-line or even in person who they really shouldn’t be emailing. Again with ZooBuh emails to your child’s contact list go through automatically and others need your approval.
  • Seeing copies of all sent and received email. So far we’ve also not had an issue where seeing the emails coming in and out has been necessary, but it’s a nice piece of mind and easier than logging in to her account. At first I must admit it felt a bit “big brother-ish” but it’s not a bad thing for your child to realize that a lot of the time their email is fair game for others to read.

ZooBuh has other features we haven’t taken advantage of yet, like controlling when your child can use it (perhaps turning it off before you get home from work, or if you’ve grounded them from email use). Overall, for the minimal cost, it’s worth it. There are some services that are “free” for kids and claim to offer similar feature sets. I would be leery of any free email service since they either have to have a business model that makes money or they will be out of business. I want to reduce the number of ads my kids see so I don’t want their email service paid for with ads for candy.

Non-Kid email account

Lastly, of course, you can give your child a regular email account with your internet service provider or another email service that allows for young users. Yahoo! and AOL apparently allow you to create special kids accounts (see information on that on - If your internet service provider (ISP) includes some free email accounts you could create one there as well. Many services such as Gmail do not allow accounts for kids under 13 in the United States because of internet privacy rules.

If you create an account on one of these systems for your child I urge you to make sure you know the password to the account and let your child know that you may check their email account at any time (this is a good rule for any on-line account your kids have). Most of these email systems allow you to set up an email forward that would give you a copy of all incoming emails but it’s usually difficult to ensure you’re seeing their outgoing email.



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