After six or seven years of using a free email account, I decided to switch to one that I pay for, one that does not share my data or track what I do.
I made the decision after I looked at my Google purchase list that goes back for years. These notations include hotels, restaurants, transportation tickets, clothes, books and just about everything else that I bought online. Looking over the list, I observed that it was pretty easy to monitor the past few years of my life just by looking through my purchases. I had no privacy.
One of my friends said it best when he commented, “When something is free, you and your data are the product.” So that is when I decided to switch. I do not want to be the product. I am tired of serving as the product.
I looked at half-a-dozen different programs, all of which emphasize privacy and freedom from tracking, and I chose one that several people I know have used. Then I got out my credit card, paid for a year and — wonder of wonders — the charge did not show up on Google Purchases.
Since then I’ve spent time moving things over to my new email system. This includes just about everything that asks me to sign up with my email address and probably anything that relates to business.
I hate receiving so much unwanted e-mail! In my family we follow most of the rules. We don’t sign up for contests or take quizzes. We don’t post our e-mail addresses in strange places, and we never forward chain letters or respond to the many ridiculous things that arrive in our electronic mailboxes. Yet the message glut is frustrating everyone in my family on a daily basis
Of course some of the mail arrives because I’ve signed up for alerts or news, but other messages arrive for unknown reasons. After ordering from a catalog, I’m often asked to provide my e-mail address so a confirmation can be sent — which I like. But then, suddenly, I start receiving daily messages — which I don’t like. In fact, when a store or catalog starts sending me several e-mails a week, my inclination is not to order from them again.
What is the right age for children to get personal e-mail accounts? Most of us discover, usually in hindsight, that a child’s independent e-mail account changes the context of many childhood experiences and complicates our child-rearing concerns.
E-mail connects a child to the world in ways that we parents may want to postpone. Chain mail, spam, the occasional unkind note, crazy stories, and the appearance of strange links — all are experiences that cannot be avoided, even with the best parental monitoring and regular family discussions. Complicating the situation are the regular and age-appropriate conversations children have with one another, talking about odd and unusual electronic encounters. It’s wise to chat with teachers at your child’s school because they observe digital interactions that are different from what parents see.
Hundreds of digital options — e-mail is only one of them — are available and waiting for your child to discover them, so in the final analysis, you cannot prevent digital access. You can, however, make decisions help you focus on educating your child about digital citizenship.