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10 Email Question for the Younger Set (and the rest of us)

on May 3, 2015

After much discussion, we signed our children up for a “kid safe” email application. You know the kind, the children can only send or receive email messages from an approved list of addresses; anything else gets quarantined for my approval.  Anyway, it’s only been a few days since we’ve done this and the children have been reaching out and connecting with family and friends (yay!). Most of the exchanges have been light and inconsequential; “What are you doing?”, “I’ve got email now!”, etc. But one email came through from my Dad (Dennis Eberhardt, affectionately dubbed Grampoo. It’s from the Nick Jr. kids show called Oobi.) that was so well written and addressed many email pitfalls and concerns that we have (but often cannot express effectively because of our my downright fear that in saying THE THING aloud we may actually cause IT to occur). It was a great reminder to me about the importance of email and it touched our middle child so much that it was shared with anyone who would listen. So now I’m sharing it with you.

The email follows . . .

From: Dennis Eberhardt

This is a big step for you.  It might not seem like it, but stay with me and just take that as truth for now.  It is almost as important as learning to drive a car.  Your mom and dad trust you a lot to let you have this independence.  Now the responsibility is yours to earn it.  This is what I mean.  Suddenly you can write things and send your voice out to many people.  And they will read what you have to say.  But unlike your real voice, written words (and pictures, videos, etc.) DON’T FADE AWAY with time.  Written words are permanent words.  And they don’t readily show how you feel when you write them.  For instance, when you talk with someone face-to-face they can see how you are standing and hear your voice rise and fall.  Those things are all part of the message you are sending when you talk.  They are not there when you email – even if you put little emoticons afterward.  So just be cautious.  Remember that people other than your first email friend will probably read your message.  Different people take what you write in different ways.

I have been using email for more than 30 years  and have made or seen most mistakes people make.

Here are a 10 questions I thought of to ask before you send your emails – hopefully they will help you avoid some mistakes.

  1. Is your email private?  Will it only go to one person?  NO!  Once you send it, it can be sent around to others.  It can live longer than you.  So please don’t write something that you wouldn’t say to anyone else’s face.
  2. Is your email respectful?  Does it respect the other person’s character and time?  Don’t be mean and have something to say that is worthwhile to the other person.  Sometimes that is just a simple note that you are thinking about them and sometimes, like this one, it is (hopefully) helpful advice.
  3. Have you been asked for your opinion?  If not, try to avoid giving it.  Sometimes other people will write something to a large number of folks expressing their opinion about a subject that you feel strongly about.  Unless they are specifically asking for your feedback, try to avoid giving it.  No matter how strongly you might feel that they are right or wrong.
  4. Are you offering something positive?  If you do send a message with criticism or advice, be sure to try to offer something positive.
  5. Is that a joke you wrote?  You might think so, especially if you are skilled with puns or subtle humor. This can backfire at times, especially in email.  Just be careful that what you write cannot be taken as offense by someone else.  Again, it is possible that people other than the first reader will see your message – even if they say they will keep it secret.
  6. Is your message secret?  Only meant for the one person you sent it to?  NOT!  Once a message is written and sent, it can be, and often is, sent to others.  I do not mean to say that you can’t trust your friends but sometimes their email accounts aren’t private and you know that there are hackers out there that steal messages sometimes.
  7. Are you in a hurry?  Don’t be.  After you write a message let it sit for a while before you send it.  Read it again later, then send it if you still feel the same way.  Now, that doesn’t mean that every message has to wait.  if someone asks for information, say, “Where is the party?” .  You can fire right back saying, “my house.”  But any message with real sentiment or emotion, especially anger, should wait – at least for a few minutes.  I’m even waiting before I send this one.
  8. Are you sharing too much?  Too much personal information like addresses, phone numbers, vacation times, secret feelings.  After you write something with personal information about you, your family or someone you know, ask your mom or dad to proofread it.  Proofreading is asking their opinion about whether or not it is appropriate – It’s a good idea until you get more experience with this media.
  9. Are you writing well?  People that don’t know you might read your message.  They will form an opinion of you based on how well you write.  Your grammar and punctuation and the actual ideas you express are important.  They are you and you are important.  we all care about other people’s opinions of ourselves – some more than others – it’s only natural.  You brush your hair and wear proper clothes partly because of this.  Your writing is also another way of showing who and what you are.  Write something worth reading – Show your best.
  10. Are you being awesomely responsible?  Last but not least, you have a responsibility to yourself and family.  Email is like a sharp knife – it sure does cut vegetables well but it can also cut your finger if you are not careful. This is a big step into the world and you might stumble a couple times.  Your mom and dad are there to help guide you, just like when you started to walk and ride your bike.

I don’t mean to be preachy but this is important and I want you to be the best.  Show your friends, family how awesome you are.  Help the world move in a good direction by sharing good ideas and thoughts.  I attached a document that you can print and put by the computer when you are writing to remind you of the 10 Questions.  I hope that you will use them and help the world –  add and share some of your own.

I love you and look forward to emailing with you.



10 Email Questions

I hope you’ve found this email as helpful as I did (thanks Dad).  So, how have you been navigating the email world with your children?

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