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The first own e-mail address – tips for a secure e-mail traffic

3 minutes reading time
6-17 years
Social Media
Copyright: photothek.de

Just as e-mails are a matter of course for adults, they are now part of everyday life for most children and young people. A separate e-mail address is often necessary, for example, to log on to gaming sites or learning platforms. Just during the Corona Lockdown, many schools sent out information and assignments via email. In this post, you’ll learn what to look for in email addresses.

Overload, spam and viruses

Most providers of the often free email accounts are not geared toward children and teens. Such mailboxes often have many and complicated functions oriented to the needs of adults. Children find it difficult to find their way around there. In addition, there are dangers such as spam, phishing or chain mails, with which children and young people must first be familiarized.

Spam refers to e-mails that contain unsolicited advertising – like the advertising leaflets that land in your mailbox at home. They are sent by people or algorithms automatically and without prompting. This is also the case with phishing emails. These aim to trick email owners into signing up for a subscription, entering a fake sweepstakes or paying fake bills. Fake senders make the recipients of such mails feel insecure. Such e-mails may also contain links or files behind which there is a computer virus or similar, and when clicked or opened, the user’s own computer will be infected.

Many of the unsolicited emails contain content that is not suitable for children, such as pornographic content. Spam and phishing becomes possible because the email address is used to sign up for chats, messenger services or games and is thus spread. Such services protect the personal data of their users to varying degrees. Strangers may be able to access it and use it to contact your child and send unsolicited emails. This can be particularly overwhelming for children and young people who do not yet have any strategies for dealing with such risks.

Tips for parents

Before you set up an email box for your child, think together about what it will be used for. If your child is younger than 13, he or she is not yet allowed to use many services (according to the T&Cs and the Data Protection Act). For school purposes, there are often school-owned mailboxes that must meet certain security standards. However, this school email should not be used for other services. Such mail addresses, such as lena.meier@schule-am-hasengraben.de, can reveal specific information about your child. This can be risky if the address falls into the wrong hands. Therefore, explain to your child that such an address may also only be used for school purposes.

Therefore, even if you have a “private” email that is used for social media, etc., it is important that your child uses a pseudonym and that the email address cannot be traced back to your child. Make it clear to your child that the e-mail address should not simply be passed on to third parties. It is best to use a child-friendly mail provider – see below.

Also, explain to your child what spam is all about (see above) and how to deal with it. In many programs, spam can be marked so that mails from the same sender are automatically sorted out. If the sender of an email is not known, you and your child should be cautious. The safest way is to mark such messages as spam and then delete them directly. Under no circumstances should links or attachments be clicked and responded to!

If your child is old enough to log on to social media or other services, do it together. Make sure that the mail address is not displayed publicly and disable informational mails from the provider. Because even such mails can overflow a mailbox and it is difficult for your child to distinguish what is spam or info mails.

E-mail programs for children

Especially for younger children it is recommended to use a suitable e-mail program. Mail providers especially for children have only the most important functions and guarantee certain protective measures:

  • With Mail4Kidz and Kidsmail24, young users only receive e-mails from people who are already listed in their own so-called friend book.
  • With ZUM Elementary School Mail, guardians even get the messages from strangers sent to them and can then decide whether they are trustworthy.

The child-friendly programs all have spam and virus protection. This way, your child won’t receive any unwanted ads or chain mails in the first place. However, ZUM’s internal search is linked to Google, which is why adult search results could also appear.

Some of the programs are free of charge (Mail4Kidz for the first six months) and are particularly suitable for children under 14. With Kidsmail24, users have the option of switching to an unrestricted account after reaching the age of 14. Despite child-friendly programs, your child is never protected from all risks on the net. You as a parent should therefore talk to your child about his or her contacts on the Internet and give your child the security of being able to turn to you if problems arise.

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