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Too Young for E-Mail?

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Stepbomb: Another difficult thing about divorce is that, more often than not, the ex-spouses don't have a similar approach to parenting. (You already know that's the case with my husband and his ex-wife.) Now my husband's oldest daughter has started asking about getting her own e-mail address, and (not surprisingly) mom and dad aren't in agreement about what to tell her.

girl using computer

Her mom says yes. Her dad says no. I'm staying out of it, as is her stepdad.

That said, my stepdaughter did ask me what I think. We have a good relationship, and she often wants to know what I think about things. But although I have very strong opinions on the subject, I do not feel it's my place to interject them, so I told her that it's up to her mom and dad to figure out. However, I did ask her why she wanted an e-mail address. "Because all my friends have them," was her answer. (This is actually untrue -- I only know of about two girls in her grade who have them.)

We found out a few days ago that mom greenlit the e-mail address when she purchased an iPad Touch for her daughter. Now my husband feels conflicted. On the one hand, he knows he has to trust his ex-wife to monitor things, but on the other hand, isn't this just opening up a can of worms that his daughter isn't really old enough to handle? You have to get on the Internet to get to the e-mail. Will someone be looking over her shoulder every second, making sure she's not distracted by an inappropriate advertisement or news story? And what's the point of giving a sixth grader an e-mail address in the first place? (We didn't even have the Internet until we were in our 20s!)

So my husband (who does regularly try to come to compromises) called his ex-wife, and she gave him the answer she often gives when they disagree: "I'm their mother. I decide." But my question is, why doesn't the father have equal say in what he believes is right for his daughter? And shouldn't mom try to compromise -- i.e., by waiting another year? Should the mother get to decide simply because she's the mother?

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135 comments so far | Post a comment now
Leah August 25, 2010, 5:55 AM

I don’t think you get what it means to be a mother -your quote “Should the mother get to decide simply because she’s the mother?”
The answer is YES. When you are the mom you make the decisions, period. Its one of those things you can’t understand until you become a mother.

Their father, from what I’ve read of your blog, shovels the parenting responsibility onto his wife and you. In this case it seems he’s just saying no to email because his wife is saying yes. If he doesn’t like the email then he can make a rule that when they are at his house they cannot use the email. Simple and fair - they can use it at their mom’s but not at their dad’s.

wildflower August 25, 2010, 7:42 AM

a debate my ex and I have had. I allowed my child to get an email address, and a facebook page. She was in 6th grade when we set them up. However, there are stipulations - i had the password to both accounts and logged in daily to check the activity. Yes, there is the possibility that your child could be exposed to things on the internet but they are exposed to all kinds of things all day long at school. While our situations are not the same, my ex did oppose the accounts, not because he didn’t want her to have them - he has to control everything so he hacked into both accounts, changed the passwords and email for the facebook accounts. Neither my daughter or I have had access to these accounts since Feb when he hacked them. So, she just uses my facebook and my email. Her friends know to tag things so I know they are meant for her. I randomly check them, same as I do her text messages on her phone. I’m not in control of the situation, I am protecting her. If someone is sending her something inappropriate I need to help her handle the situation properly. I can’t protect her from inappropriate situations - if I could she wouldn’t have experienced the majority of her life. It’s not been easy but none of it was something in my control.

Dana August 25, 2010, 8:05 AM

My daughter has had an email address for a couple years and is just entering the 6th grade. Mostly she emails her grandmother and one friend she left behind when she moved.

But we have the passwords and check it regularly (mostly so she doesn’t see the nasty spam!)

I think agreements are best, but sometimes you just have to sit and talk about what the concerns are and how they can be addressed.

Justa Dad August 25, 2010, 8:10 AM

An iPad is practically useless if you don’t have an email address. You can’t download applications, and you can’t share an address with another person/device. So if she has an iPad, yes, she needs an email address.

That said, I think it’s excellent advice that the email address and Internet access stay at mom’s house. How much or how little of that she gets at dad’s house is up to dad.

I also think it’s great that you are learning to defer to dad. Your opinion and advice isn’t nearly as important for these girls as their own mom’s and dad’s.

Finally, to echo what the poster above said, and to paraphrase Spiderman, with great power comes great privileges. Dad has pawned off a lot of his power and responsibility to you, the stepmom. Mom gets the privilege of a lot of the decision making because she has primary custody and is the primarily responsible parent.

The Mother August 25, 2010, 10:44 AM

In this case I have to site the MOTHER for being in the wrong. (oooh geez…and before anyone gets twisted I’m the mother in my own situation. I have a husband, and my ex has a wife).

Before getting the daughter the iPad it should’ve been cleared by both the mother AND the father with discussion also involving the steparents. EVERYONE should be on the same page-the biological mother and father AND the stepparents.

The mother isn’t the only one responsible for these girls OR the only one watching them-she doesn’t get a 99% vote. Having **x and giving birth DOES NOT a mother make. I’ve worked hard as a parent-so have my husband, my ex AND his wife-they deserve just as much say as I do.

Except for this one time that I was totally right…nah, I’m just kidding. I think there’s too much emphasis on the mom and her various ‘tudes instead of the kids. She needs to get over herself a bit.

Lorelon August 25, 2010, 11:40 AM

I’m glad the poster above’s husband and ex-wife have worked hard as parents. Stepbomb has a different situation. Her husband routinely foists parenting duties onto her and walks away to do other more important stuff. Of COURSE the mom should have say over what goes on in her own house. She’s the main custodial parent. I think it’s stupid that dad would get to veto an iPad purchase. NOT stupid if he says “no, I don’t want it in my house.” That’s his right. Just like it’s mom’s right to have the kid get an e-mail account. Dad can say he doesn’t want the e-mail used in his house, that totally makes sense. Although what will probably happen is that he spends all of his time at work leaving the stepmother to deal with the day-to-day reality of an iPad and email account in the house when she visits.

Sara August 25, 2010, 12:18 PM

Why is an e-mail address “scary”? It’s absurd to think it is.

How is it different than allowing a kid to use a phone?

My six year old has an e-mail account. She can’t receive messages from people she hasn’t e-mailed first and it helps her work on her typing. She likes to read me the messages that she gets from her cousins.

An e-mail account being secret and private and without safety controls is something that comes with years but simply having an address specific to the child and allowing them to use it shouldn’t be a problem. If the child can read and type they’re old enough for an e-mail account.

Anonymous August 25, 2010, 1:13 PM

I think 6th grade is too young to have your own e-mail address, although I know some 4th graders who have them. You can get unpleasant spam. Some e-mail servers post ads for things like meeting singles. And kids who aren’t carefully supervised can get e-mails from weird people.

Fathers should certainly have an equal say in how their children are raised, but from what I’ve seen joint custody means you can’t control what happens at the other house. Your best bet is to get along with your ex so that they are more willing to compromise on the issues that are important to you.

There isn’t much a stepmom can do, except listen to your husband’s complaints and encourage him to be calm and polite when he talks to his wife. Telling your stepdaughter it was between her parents was a good move, I think. You could even add that you know they both love her and want what they think is best for her.

MiniVan Mom August 25, 2010, 7:04 PM


Really? The Mom should make the sole decision? Seriously,someone sounds like a VERY bitter ex-wife. (hint:You!)

Yes, there are probably many things that Stepbomb doesn’t know about having kids. But at least she’s trying.

The Mother August 25, 2010, 8:22 PM

@Lorelon, I agree with what you have written. It’s unfair though that through sheer biology the mother gets to do whatever she wants and NO ONE else counts…not the dad who said no, and not the stepparents who (through orders or self-preservation) are “staying out of it”. They are ALL parents to these children…there should be no reason that they are not treated equal. They have to deal with the consequences of her actions-as you pointed out. (“But MOM let’s me use the iPad!!”) While I’m not living Stepbomb’s life, and am in a different situation, I still think the mother is totally in the wrong. If her ex said no (and she REALLY disagreed with him) then ALL of the adults should’ve sat down and came to a consenus before the iPad was even MENTIONED to the child. For all she knows Stepbomb could be totally on her side of the Great Email Debate and could’ve convinced the dad (wink wink nudge nudge) to go along with it. How do you think I get stuff done?? LOL

Anonymous August 26, 2010, 12:21 AM

I don’t like hypocrisy, so I don’t like Stepbomb’s attitude.

She should be able to plan her stepchild’s birthday party without mom (who she considers a shrew) saying a word.

She should be able to take her stepdaughters shopping and dress them in sexy A&F clothes and mom shouldn’t say a word.

She should be able to volunteer at the girls school, and pick what homework goes home to mom, without mom making a peep.

But e-mail? Oh, all of a sudden Stepbomb thinks. It’s important to SHARE parenting and make joint decisions.


Leah August 26, 2010, 5:32 AM

MiniVanMom -
Nope sorry, married quite happily for 10+ years! However, you do sound EXACTLY like a self-important, over-stepping boundary step-mom (you’re mistress turned 2nd wife, obviously)

If you weren’t so clearly ignorant of this blog you would be aware that as I stated in this case mom does get to make the decision. She is the mother and has primary custody. The father does no parenting and foists the responsibility onto the mother. Stepbomb just inserts herself into these situations where she doesn’t get a “vote” since a) she is not a parent b)her sole goal is to be “friends” with the kids c) she has zero problem being a complete hypocrite and making decisions without the mother.

Also, if you were capable of comprehension or had read my full statement you would see that I said - mom can have it at her house and if dad does not like it he can ban it at his. Then both parents are compromising. I know that’s probably a big word not in your vocabulary, but you should try to look it up.

anonymous August 26, 2010, 8:34 AM

I think having Stepbomb be the babysitter for the kids after school was a huge mistake and possibly the source of a lot of the problems and bad feelings. But now she and her husband have to figure out how to move forward and repair things.

Stepbomb deserves credit for doing the right thing in this situation and telling the girl the conflict is up to her parents.

The problem is that at this point, the kids are in full manipulation mode. Want nice clothes? Go to dad and his new wife who wants you to like her. Want an iPad that dad thinks you’re too young for? Go to mom who will jump at the chance to be the good guy for once. The parents need to somehow get past their anger and get their acts together or this is going to go on for years.

I don’t know how to get past the situation, but I’d suggest some kind of counseling and mediation (I hope you aren’t in the middle of a lawsuit anymore).

Stepbomb August 26, 2010, 9:18 AM

Hi everyone,

I feel that I need to clarify again that my husband does not defer the responsibilities of parenting his children. He is very involved in their lives- as much so as their mother. He does volunteer work at the school, he is involved in their sports and he is sincerely trying to help facilitate a better relationship with his ex-wife and a better relationship between all of us- the stepparents and parents.

The blog that I write focuses primarily on my relationship with his ex-wife and that is why he isn’t discussed to the degree that she is. But I’m happy to include him more if that will help, because, again, I’m trying to portray the situation as accurately as possible as to get helpful insight from mothers and stepmothers alike.

And while some of the comments are hard to read, I’m trying to look at each one from the perspective of the person writing it and really attempting to see that point of view.

Thanks again for your input.

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Anonymous August 27, 2010, 6:08 AM

Stepbomb - while you keep saying your husband is very involved in the parenting my question is then how are YOU winding up in the middle of all these situations?

Sarah August 30, 2010, 10:36 AM

I signed my daughter up for an email account when my husband deployed to Afghanistan. She only uses it for family and I help her log in each time to make sure that there is not any junk in her inbox that she doesn’t need to be tempted with.
As for the decision making, parenting definitely needs to be a team effort, no matter how many parents a child has! If the child’s best interest is the main concern of them all, it shouldn’t be a difficult situation.

Carol August 30, 2010, 12:16 PM

First off, even if the kid is ONLY using the e-mail for this or that person, doesn’t mean the kid wouldn’t get spam.
E-mail provoders have had their customers list stolen, individual people have had their e-mail addressbooks hijacked.
I agre witht he poster who wrote that if the fahter is highly involved then why is Stepbomb on in the middle of things?
If one goes by Stepbomb’s blogs, the father does seem to shirk his parental responisbilities.

Todd August 31, 2010, 11:15 AM

I’m new to reading this blog, and have to say that some of what I’m reading is making my blood boil.
The majority of comments seem to come from moms or stepmoms. Well, as a father who has 50 percent custody of his 7-year-old son, and a wife who loves her stepson (and vice versa), I can say that the old adage “The road to hell is paved with good intentions” definitely holds true.
I particularly take issue with the posters who ask the question: If the dad is really involved, how does the stepmom end up in the middle? I am about as involved a father as you will find. I take him to school, I pick him up, I coach his sports teams, I volunteer in his class, I cook his meals, read him stories, help him with his homework - I would do anything for him. As would my ex. And, this may come as a shock to many of you - so would his stepmom. And THAT’s how she ends up in the middle of things. My ex’s rights as my son’s mother DO NOT trump my rights as his father. And as his father, I want my wife (my son’s stepmom) involved in his life. My ex should not get to micromanage where my wife can and cannot be as it relates to my son, but she tries. And she takes it out on my wife, and me, regularly.
I’m sorry, but I just do not buy the idea that if the dad is involved, the stepmom shouldn’t be. My wife left our marriage after having an affair, saying our son would be better off with parents who role-modeled healthy relationships and families. True enough. Healthy role-modeling and family values come from me and my wife. I know my ex does a good job in her home as well. She just needs to butt out of mine.
As long as what I and my wife do does not infringe on my ex’s time, she does not get to tell me where my wife can and cannot be. It should be that simple.
I accord my ex’s boyfriend the same courtesy/freedom we’ve desperately sought for years.

IDontAgreeWithTodd August 31, 2010, 1:20 PM

I love and appreciate that a dad is chiming in, because I think that POV is necessary. However, since stepmom automatically gets a right in raising the kids (per Todd’s argument), shouldn’t both grandmothers have equal say, too? Because they love the kids? And all the grandpas, too?

What about aunts and uncles? Shouldn’t they also get equal input and benefits and responsibilities because they all love the kids and want what’s best for them? So what if it gets crowded? Heck, through good-intentioned neighbors in there as well.

Or (novel idea) mom and dad took the initiative to have kids, and should therefore divide responsibilities equally. Not push their 50% off onto someone else, like stepmom, under the guise of just loving the kids more.

I think Todd’s point of view is important though, because it shows how much dads are willing to force their wives (new or otherwise) into childrearing positions and pretend it’s all fun and games and no big deal.

These are kids, not s’mores, and they deserve the love and attention of their parents, not a lovefest with anybody everybody wanting to share them.

It seems to me that moms or dads who are so willingly excited about letting stepparents parent, and share special time with their kids, or chores or childraising, are encouraging theft. Every second spent with a stepparent is a second stolen from what should have been (and would have been) time with mom or dad.

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