Tuesday, May 14, 2013

Electronic mail

 image via Wiertz Sebastien

We were reading a book** together in which third grader best friends are torn apart when one of the friends has to move away because of a parent's job reassignment. As the boy who leaves rides away in his parents' car, he calls his friend: "Hey, Piper. What's your email address?"

Get off the bus! yelled my E, because that's what Piper always says in excitement. I knew kids could have email!  

I didn't know it was a fact to be disproven but her enthusiam was darling. The best part about spending time with children is observing their delight at observing all those things to which we've grown so accustomed that we forget to acknowledge their wonder. It didn't take her more than a minute to ask for an email account, but it did take her much more than that to contain her surprise when I said yes.

We reviewed some rules. I disabled almost all the features. She knows I have her password and not to open any attachments or forward any mass messages. She knows that her mail is auto-forwarded to my account. There are no generations of internet-savvy parenting tricks to rely on, so we're approaching this slowly and unjadedly. But my girl: she doesn't know about predators and identity theft and sexting. She's just excited to email her friends (or their parents) for play dates.  One day we'll have to relax her restrictions, but first she'll have years of transparently supervised access to this fine world wide web we know and love.

I got my first email address in my first year of college, I told her. And the computer showed words on a black screen with green letters. And I had to walk to a pay phone and drop in a token to make a phone call. Communication was an entirely different phenomenon. She listened, slack jawed, and couldn't even imagine what that was like. This new world moves so fast and of course she wants to be a part of it. And so we give her access, carefully, because truly it's her birthright. 

**If you have a Piper Reed fan in your house, you should know that by looking up book 5 in Amazon to provide that link, I learned that book 6 comes out at the end of this month. Get off the bus!

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