A parent's guide to safe, simple kid-friendly e-mail

The Internet can be a dangerous place for children, but it's an increasingly necessary evil. Here's how to set up e-mail for your young'uns while maintaining parental control.

Live From Microsoft, It's Family Safety!

I'm not sure who borrowed the playbook from whom, but Microsoft's Windows Live Family Safety works a lot like AOL's Parental Controls do. First, you sign up for a Windows Live ID for both yourself and your child. (Doing so nets you individual Windows Live Hotmail accounts.) Then, you install Microsoft's Family Safety software. And finally, you configure everything by way of a Web control panel.

Getting started with Family Safety is pretty straightforward: Click the Get Started button and follow the prompts. You can create a Windows Live ID if you need one or sign in with an existing one. Either way, you'll land at the Family Safety settings page, where you can add one or more children and, if desired, another parent. (Why should you have all the fun?) This is also the place to create a trusted-contacts list, one that dictates who's approved to send e-mail to your child as well as who your child can e-mail. That gives Windows Live a slight edge over AOL, which offers only inbound protection.

153381-Windows_Live_Family Safety_Request_Permission_original

What happens if Junior wants to contact, say, a new school friend who isn't on the contact list? He can visit the Family Safety site and ask your permission via e-mail or even instant message. When you receive the request, you can hop onto the Family Safety site and--if the new kid checks out--give your digital blessing on the spot.

If there's a drawback to giving your child a Family Safety-protected Windows Live Hotmail account, it's that the Web interface lacks KOL's kid-friendliness. It isn't complicated by any means, but younger users may find it intimidating.

Hey, Microsoft: You have the parental controls down pat--now how about offering a Windows Live "Kidmail" interface with oversize buttons and cutesy icons?

From A to ZooBuh

153381-ZooBuh_Add_Child_original

If it sounds like AOL and Microsoft make you jump through considerable hoops to set up child-safe e-mail accounts, it's because, well, they do. That's why I'm partial to ZooBuh, a Web-based mail service designed expressly with young users in mind. It's a cinch to set up, it offers more and better controls than AOL or Microsoft do, and it requires no extra software.

153381-ZooBuh_Interface_original

ZooBuh gives you total control over your children's e-mail universe. By default they can receive mail only from users in the approved-contact list and can send mail only to those same approved users--but you can change either setting as you see fit. You can have copies of incoming or outgoing messages sent to your e-mail address, remove images or links from your child's received mail, and block some or all attachments. ZooBuh also has a bad-words filter, with a box for adding your own unwanted words.

153381-ZooBuh_Easy_Interface_original

Both AOL and Microsoft offer controls more or less on a par with those, but what really sets ZooBuh apart is its interface: It's colorful, simplistic, and blissfully free of advertising. It even has an Easy version, aimed at younger users, that's even more colorful and simplistic. In short, this is what e-mail for kids should look like.

As you might have guessed by now, ZooBuh isn't free--but it's admirably inexpensive. Following a 30-day trial (which doesn't require a credit card), the service charges just $US1 per month for each account. That's a small price to pay for safe, child-friendly e-mail that takes all of about 5 minutes to set up. Your kids will thank you.

Join the newsletter!

Error: Please check your email address.
Rocket to Success - Your 10 Tips for Smarter ERP System Selection

Tags online safetyparenting

Keep up with the latest tech news, reviews and previews by subscribing to the Good Gear Guide newsletter.

Rick Broida

PC World (US online)
Show Comments

Cool Tech

SanDisk MicroSDXC™ for Nintendo® Switch™

Learn more >

Breitling Superocean Heritage Chronographe 44

Learn more >

Toys for Boys

Family Friendly

Panasonic 4K UHD Blu-Ray Player and Full HD Recorder with Netflix - UBT1GL-K

Learn more >

Stocking Stuffer

Razer DeathAdder Expert Ergonomic Gaming Mouse

Learn more >

Christmas Gift Guide

Click for more ›

Most Popular Reviews

Latest Articles

Resources

PCW Evaluation Team

Walid Mikhael

Brother QL-820NWB Professional Label Printer

It’s easy to set up, it’s compact and quiet when printing and to top if off, the print quality is excellent. This is hands down the best printer I’ve used for printing labels.

Ben Ramsden

Sharp PN-40TC1 Huddle Board

Brainstorming, innovation, problem solving, and negotiation have all become much more productive and valuable if people can easily collaborate in real time with minimal friction.

Sarah Ieroianni

Brother QL-820NWB Professional Label Printer

The print quality also does not disappoint, it’s clear, bold, doesn’t smudge and the text is perfectly sized.

Ratchada Dunn

Sharp PN-40TC1 Huddle Board

The Huddle Board’s built in program; Sharp Touch Viewing software allows us to easily manipulate and edit our documents (jpegs and PDFs) all at the same time on the dashboard.

George Khoury

Sharp PN-40TC1 Huddle Board

The biggest perks for me would be that it comes with easy to use and comprehensive programs that make the collaboration process a whole lot more intuitive and organic

David Coyle

Brother PocketJet PJ-773 A4 Portable Thermal Printer

I rate the printer as a 5 out of 5 stars as it has been able to fit seamlessly into my busy and mobile lifestyle.

Featured Content

Latest Jobs

Don’t have an account? Sign up here

Don't have an account? Sign up now

Forgot password?