E-mail is typically a one-to-one communications system. Just like regular mail, you write to someone and they can write back.
Did You Know? Increasingly, people and companies are using E-mail to send out messages to thousands of people at a time, encouraging them to buy something, do something, or visit a web site. The process, known as “spamming,” can be intrusive and annoying. Because E-mail is essentially free, “spammers” can send out thousands or even millions of messages at little or no cost. Some use spamming to try to entice people to visit sexually explicit web sites.
Each E-mail message that you send and receive contains a return address. What many people don’t realize is that the return address can be fake. So, just because you get a message from “email@example.com” doesn’t mean it’s really from grandma. It could really be from “firstname.lastname@example.org.” E-mail also contains other information called a “header” that provides more information about who sent the message and where it came from. Understanding the header information can be difficult, but if you ever receive an E-mail message that is belligerent, threatening, or contains material that makes you feel uncomfortable, you should report it to your Internet service provider and ask them to investigate where it came from. If the material appears to be illegal in nature, you should report it to the CyberTipline at www.missingkids.com/cybertip or call 1-800-843-5678. Illegal material includes threats to your life or safety, threats to others, child pornography, and evidence of other crimes. NCMEC will refer this report to the appropriate federal law enforcement agencies.
Caution Be careful how you respond to E-mail from people you don’t know. Remember, the sender might not be who he or she seems to be. Never send a photograph of yourself or any personal information to someone you don’t know. Also, E-mail can easily be copied and forwarded to others. So if you do send personal information to friends, be sure that they are willing to respect your privacy.
In general, it’s best not to respond to spam mail or mail from someone you don’t know. By responding, you are verifying to the sender that you have a valid E-mail address, and that information can be used to encourage a person who may send inappropriate E-mails or get you on even more lists. If you receive a message that contains material that is sexually explicit, violent, or advocates something that is illegal or simply makes you feel uncomfortable, show it to your parents and report that message to your Internet service provider. You can usually find that address on the service’s main web page (www.servicename.com). When in doubt, report the message to email@example.com (substitute the name of your service for “servicename”).
Positive Benefits for Your Child
- Keep in touch with teachers, family, friends
- Get help with homework
- Establish mentoring relationships
- Practice writing
- Receive online newsletters
- Make world-wide pen pals
- Strangers, at times pretending to be someone else, can communicate with your child
- Harassing messages
- Unsolicited e-mail (“Spam”), usually about sites with sexually explicit material, products for sale, or moneymaking schemes
- Share your child’s e-mail account and password
- Talk with your child about the people he or she is meeting online
- Set a rule that your child never arranges an in-person meeting without you present
- Complain to the sender of unsolicited e-mail and to your ISP about unwanted e-mail
What Parental Control Tools Can Do
- Route your child’s e-mail first to your account
- Reject e-mail from specific e-mail addresses
- Limit e-mail with offensive language and personal information from being sent and received