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How to give your young children a personalized (managed) email address

February 5, 2007

My kids like writing letters to their friends and family. However, licking envelopes and putting those funny little stickers on them is not something I do very often (I pay all my bills online and 100% of my correspondence is by email). So, whenever the kids want to send a message to their aunt or uncle or whoever, I have them write it out, then I scan the page, save it as a JPG, and email it as an attachment. All the personality of a real-live letter without the stamping, mailing, and waiting.

The only drawback to that approach is that the email comes from me. My kids, 6 and 4, are too young to have their own email accounts. Email software is too complex for them and they can’t type anyway. Besides, I don’t want them exposed to the kind of spam I get on a regular basis. Fortunately, most email apps let you setup multiple identities on one account. (The instructions below are for Gmail, but you can do virtually the same thing in any email software—read the help pages.)

Suppose your Gmail address is Alice@gmail.com and your child’s name is Johnny. To send mail from your Gmail account with Johnny’s name in the From line:

  • Go into Settings, click Accounts, then Add another email address
  • Now enter Johnny’s name and Alice+Johnny@gmail.com as the address.
Add an email address
You can now compose mail and select Johnny’s name for the from address. The mail will appear to come from Johnny and replies will come right back into your regular Gmail account. You can even create filters for Alice+Johnny to separate those emails from your other email. And you can create as many as you like (Alice+Susy@gmail.com, Alice+Jane@gmail.com, etc.).

Comments

  1. are you my rik? on 2007-02-05 12:34:55 wrote: john, that is just awesome. my little almost-5-year old is wanting more and more to “write” letters, and so they pile up in our pile of “things we intend to do at some point.” this is a great idea–thanks for posting.

  2. parent hacks on 2007-02-06 17:53:50 wrote: How to give your kid a personalized (managed) email address… John Watson (of Flagrant Disregard, LetterPop, and fd’s Flickr Toys, among other things) wrote up a sweet little Gmail hack for setting up dummy email accounts for his kids (really just separate identities). He keeps track of the email, but…

  3. landismom on 2007-02-06 19:51:50 wrote: Thanks! That is really helpful. (surfed in from parenthacks)

  4. Barb on 2007-02-08 19:56:20 wrote: I’m also here from PH, and have a question for you. Having set up my gmail account to receive emails from other accounts, I knew I could set them up as the “reply to” addresses as well. Otherwise, when an email came to me from another account and I replied to it from my gmail account, the new reply-to email was my gmail address, not my other accounts. For example, all my emails from Great Family Gadgets gets sent to admin@greatfamilygadgets.com and now that I have specified the reply-to address, they go OUT from my gmail account as admin@great… - this didn’t happen until gmail made this a possibility. So does this work the same? If my son is using his “account” from my mail and gets a reply to which he then wants to reply back, will it make it show his name instead of mine? If not, do you know of a way to make it do that? Thanks for the tip! I’d seen it other places but never as applied to kids’ email accounts and hadn’t thought of it myself. ;)

  5. John on 2007-02-08 20:00:51 wrote: This will work the same way. Pretty cool, huh?

  6. Blog Mirrors » Give your kids personalized Gmail addresses on 2007-02-09 18:44:33 wrote: […] How to give your young children a personalized (managed) email address [flagrantdisregard via lifehack.org] […]

  7. Phil on 2007-02-09 22:02:47 wrote: I’ve used Thunderbird with custom filters to allow emails only from specific addresses (sort of a whitelist) to arrive in the Inbox. You can also set it up to send you a copy of any emails sent or received. It works well, and eliminates the spam problem completely. Most of the time your kids will only have a few people they can communicate with anyway. Unfortunately, those people may forward undesirable email, in which case a filter to check for cc block contents would help.

  8. RJ on 2007-02-10 09:27:08 wrote: I have found (I set up ‘+’ address for specific sites - ie banks or online buying etc. eg: rj+orders@gmail.com) that a high number of sites still do not recognise the ‘+’ in the email address. I have not tried the ‘+’ accounts on a personal basis so would not know if it works there. Any feedback on that. What I have done is create separate accounts for the kids (11 and 8). But in the settings, I have created filters such that all incoming mails to the child’s account get copied to my email address also. That way, we as parents are on the ball. With regards to ‘passwords’ for the accounts, it is out in the open and the kids know that we know the passwords to their accounts and will check into the accounts. Further, the kids are allowed to get on the internet only on the computer that is in full visibility. The screen is placed in such a way that it is open to the room (the family room) and the child knows that he/she can be watched. Internet use and safety is something that modern day parents cannot fall back on their parents for guidance and help. A learning curve even for the parents.

  9. Barb on 2007-02-10 09:33:59 wrote: VERY cool! 8)

  10. Champs on 2007-02-10 10:11:44 wrote: *FYI, I configure my external clients (Tbird at work & smartphone) to BCC a copy of every message to myaccount+sent. Unfortunately, Gmail will not pick up on these messages, and I have to make a less accurate filter that marks every message that is addressed to myaccount, from myaccount – and it’s not always ideal.*

  11. IAMWW | blog | links for 2007-02-11 on 2007-02-10 19:21:16 wrote: […] flagrantdisregard » Blog Archive » How to give your young children a personalized (managed) email … (tags: gmail Email kids hacks parenting useful) […]

  12. links for 2007-02-11 - IAMWW on 2007-03-03 13:10:59 wrote: […] flagrantdisregard » Blog Archive » How to give your young children a personalized (managed) email … […]

  13. Rene on 2007-03-09 08:13:43 wrote: You should consider this if you have a Mac: http://www.haranbanjo.com/

  14. Google Goodness on 2007-03-28 05:41:53 wrote: […] also just finding out about using plus signs in GMail, and what a great feature. This was posted on Flagrant Disregard makes me wish I had kids to keep safe from […]

  15. Rich on 2007-08-02 23:30:59 wrote: “All the personality of a real-live letter without the stamping, mailing, and waiting” … Interesting proposition. I wonder how, in 30 years time, loading up that JPEG will compare to unfolding the actual piece of paper that the little darling touched and spilled milk and cookie crumbs on? Maybe email and being 6 years old is just - incompatible? Not for them - for us.

  16. Technical Related Notes » Blog Archive » links for 2007-02-11 on 2007-08-18 09:53:43 wrote: […] flagrantdisregard » Blog Archive » How to give your young children a personalized (managed) email … (tags: gmail Email hacks kids) […]

  17. links for 2007-09-20 at James A. Arconati on 2007-09-19 23:17:24 wrote: […] flagrantdisregard » Blog Archive » How to give your young children a personalized (managed) email … My kids like writing letters to their friends and family. However, licking envelopes and putting those funny little stickers on them is not something I do very often (I pay all my bills online and 100% of my correspondence is by email). So, whenever the k (tags: family kids parents blogs technology technology/software internet google google/mail) […]

  18. shyla on 2008-03-04 09:08:20 wrote: I am trying to set up a gmail account for my 9 year old daughter attached to mine. The problem is …to “verfify” the account the email goes to my spam account as “failure delivery” because it is an “unknown email account”. Any advise?

  19. John on 2008-03-04 09:36:26 wrote: Make sure you’re doing it correctly. I just tried it again and can confirm that if you’re doing it right then it doesn’t even send a confirmation mail because it already knows it’s your account. The format is: Your_Gmail_Username+something_else@gmail.com If your gmail is shyla@gmail.com then you’d use: shyla+kid@gmail.com

  20. Preschool Themes & Kids Activities on 2008-04-16 16:29:28 wrote: That is cool..I had never really given much thought to email addresses for children ..yet! Great idea though..

  21. Trina on 2008-05-02 09:18:32 wrote: I am having the same problem as Shyla. I tried 5 times and every times it goes to spam, giving me the same message. Help please.

  22. John on 2008-05-02 09:28:37 wrote: I don’t know. It works here. The only suggestion I can give is to make sure you’re doing it correctly.

  23. online coloring on 2008-05-13 19:24:06 wrote: hmmm, good idea. should use it for my kids

  24. Lewis O on 2008-08-11 12:48:50 wrote: I would like to offer a site that might help. It is one I am associated with. It is soodonims.com. The service allows you to create disposable. alias addresses that forward to a standard, protected email. By using an alias, your childs emial is always shielded, yet they receive email as they would normally. One of the strong advantages for parents, is that they can accessthe soodonims.com web site and see all the domains that are frowarding mail to their child. Any offensive domains can be terminated with a click. This is an unobtrusive way of checking on your childs email without actually entering their inbox.

  25. Nancy Travis on 2008-12-15 01:58:33 wrote: All of these are interesting possibilities but let’s face it, we modern families are spending HOURS every month (week?) on technical support or otherwise solving computer problems! My husband and I chose to quit setting up forwarders and redirects, only to have to monitor and share information, when there is a system that saves us the hassle and protects our two kids from ever seeing anything we haven’t approved. We went through all this awhile back, when we wanted them to be able to correspond with grandparents in 4 cities. His methodical research found KidMail (http://www.KidMail.net) to be the best service and support out there. The parent’s log-in is on the internet, so both I and my husband can approve or reject the kids’ incoming messages (handy with busy lifestyles, back to point #1!) Now for everyone we add to the KidMail system, we can choose MANY combinations of security settings. Whether communication with this individual goes through automatically or needs approval, outbound or inbound, and whether we can get a blind-carbon-copy or not (they call it a parental CC). We were thinking about switching to another service this year because, though the program which we installed on my husband’s computer is FUN, we wanted the kids to be able to use my Mac. Just in time, their support technicians told us they are coming out with a fully-web-based system and we’ve been “beta” testing it for months. Again, I point this out only because of how much I hear everyone “standing on their heads” to solve this problem. Yes, you COULD perform dental hygiene with a rag or sandpaper you already own, sitting outside in the garage – but maybe consider using a TOOTHBRUSH which was designed specifically for the job :)

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