Email for Your 5 Year-old; What’s Next?

If you’ve got kids, you know how frustrating it can be to keep sticky little hands away from your electronics. Constantly having to put the iPad where Sally can’t reach, always having to say , “No!”, keeping Junior jacked up on junk food so he’ll forget about your smartphone – it can all get very exhausting.

Luckily, there are people like Raphael Halberthal and Tom Galle who not only share your parental angst, but have worked to provide your kids with their own little piece of the virtual world by creating an email client just for tots. The kid-friendly iPad app called Maily, is a lot like a grown-up email hub: its users can send and receive messages, create and access a contact list, and even receive notifications of new messages. Except, compared to your “adult” email account, Maily’s interface is more visually appealing, as it glows with bright, vivid colosr and is not as… well, cluttered. Maily also offers kids special options like “affixing” stamps and stickers to their messages, and using pencils, brushes and markers to compose them. Tots can even handwrite their emails, and for aspiring photographers, Maily features a camera tool for snapping a shot and incorporating it right into a message before sending it off to Grandma. Junior emailers can also choose from a variety of backgrounds to decorate their emails with.

Right now, emails clients like Gmail and Yahoo have an age requirement for subscribers of at least 12 years old. Maily, on the other hand, is targeted towards the sillier demographic of about 4 to 9 years old.

Here’s a peek at how the kid-friendly email client works, courtesy of Maily themselves:

Kid-targeted services such as Maily are notorious for opening up a can of (gummy?) worms concerning the safety of children. But, you’ll be glad to know that Halberthal and Galle have prepared for that by creating a tool that is totally safe. Aside from Maily running on a secure network, children can exchange messages only with parent-approved contacts (mommies and daddies can even opt to get a copy of all messages sent and received – as well as read emails before they are go out or land in their child’s inbox.)

Nevertheless, skeptical parents can be steadfast, especially in a world where the next generation of kids is the first, really, to have access to electronics from infancy. On that note, did you know that today’s average household contains eleven consumer electronic devices (according to the Joan Ganz Cooney Center)?

So, what as parents anf caretakers are we to do in terms of setting boundaries for our children, without depriving them of the benefits of today’s technology? First of all, we can turn to reputable sources for guidance. For example, in 1999, the American Academy of Pediatrics (AAP) made some suggestions in a policy statement regarding children’s’ use of media. In the statement, the AAP suggested that pediatricians should “urge parents to avoid television viewing for children under the age of two years.” You can read more about that statement here.

Other resources however, such as iYogi Insights, a research initiative dedicated to helping people understand the issues involving technology and how it affects our lives, has a different perspective as a result of their own studies. According to their findings:

• Of more than 2000 iPad customers surveyed, it was discovered that 33% would be okay with buying their children (if they already haven’t) an iPad.

• Parents are willing to allow their kids to spend about $14 per month and 2 hours per day on their devices.
• More than 80% of parents agree to put funding into game and ebook downloads.
• 92% of parents approve the iPad as a homework tool (88% of which claim that their kids are doing better in school because of it!)
• 57% of parents admit to permitting their kids’ use of the devices simply for keeping their children “out of their hair.”

Of course, there is no formula for figuring out whether or not (and if so, when) to throw your kid into the virtual pool of technology in hopes that he will swim, not sink – nor are there instruction manuals for determining exactly what type of digital material and how much of it is appropriate for your child. As with every kid-related decision that we parents are faced with on a daily basis, the process no doubt is one we learn from slowly, and through trial-by-error. Luckily, though, there are tons of resources out there to help us determine the best ways to ease our children into the digital nursery, and teach them the most beneficial – and safest – ways to reap the rewards.

Here are a few resources, including web sites and books you might want to check out:

So, yes, my fellow parents-in-a-digital-age – today’s conundrum is a bit more complex than deciding whether or not to allow our children to open up what appears to me a somewhat harmless – and I’d say pretty fun – kid-friendly email account like Maily. What’s perhaps the most unnerving to me, is how quickly – and effortlessly – today’s children are able to pick up the skills for navigating an iPad or other– device.

The two-year-old in this video, for instance, seems to have an almost innate ability to steer her way through her dad’s iPad:

In the same article that this video was featured on, you can also read through a bunch of tips for creating a healthy tech environment for both you and your children.