What is Email?
Email (also typed e-mail, though omitting the hyphen is more common) is short for electronic mail. Email allows sending of typed messages from one computer to another through private mailboxes -- no one but the person you send email to can see the message. Email travels almost instantaneously, allowing messages to cross the globe in a matter of seconds.
As the Internet became available to the general public, email emerged as an efficient form of communication. The past decade or so has seen a tremendous shift from snail mail to email. In fact, a 2008 estimate claims that more than 210 billion emails are sent every day. 1 That numbers continues to rise.
Email has radically transformed the way we communicate: businesses rely heavily on email for workplace communication, friends and family keep in touch electronically, and large organizations can send messages to thousands of members at once with the click of a button. But because email has become so universal, it has also become a means for hackers, spammers, and others of suspect intent to send viruses and commit Internet Fraud.
Phishing, flames, virus spreading, and distribution of other types of "malware" all fit under the umbrella of malicious email. The first step to preventing yourself from falling prey to the scheming of cyber criminals is to be aware of their strategies. Websites such as Hoaxbusters.org or hoax-slayer.com are designed to educate and warn users of malicious chain emails.
Concerns for Parents
- Your child may be receiving a lot of spam. This form of electronic junk mail can be pornographic or harmful to your computer.
- Phishing is an attempt to obtain private information from individuals by sending bogus emails that request credit card numbers, passwords, or other information. Responding to these fraudulent emails puts one at risk of becoming a victim of identity theft.
- Many viruses and other types of malware travel through email attachments. Opening the attachments or even opening the email could infect your computer.
- Online predators generally find victims in chat rooms or social networking sites rather than working through email. However, an email account could potentially allow predators to have private conversations with your child.
How Can I Keep My Child Safe?
- Be sure that your family's email accounts come with automatic spam filtering. This will decrease the chance of opening undesired emails.
- Be sure your child picks a safe email address. Email addresses and usernames that share too much information about a person or are even mildly suggestive in nature make you a target for online predators and spammers.
- Kid-friendly email services like Zilladog and K-Mail offer your child the ability to communicate through email and eliminate many of the risks of a typical email account. If you have young children, you may want to look into these as a safe alternative to ordinary email accounts.
Where Can I Learn More?
EmailSafety.net offers dozens of great articles about countering the risks of email use.