Set Up an E-mail Account for Your Child That You Can Monitor

Let Your Child Know What You're Planning

Mom and Daughter at Computer
Adrian Weinbrecht/Getty Images

On the face of it, monitoring your child's email sounds like an invasion of privacy, especially if you have a teen with special needs. Obviously, this will not be an acceptable set-up for all kids and parents. However, if your child is vulnerable to cyberbullying, fearful of unwanted correspondence, or susceptible to bad decisions, it may be agreeable to both of you to have protective parental eyes on any messages that move through. Set up ​Facebook and other social-networking tools to send alerts to this address, and you can also keep an eye on ​the goings-on there.

Talk with your child about what you want to do and why. If this is the only condition in which you will allow email, discuss that. Then, when you're in agreement, move on to the set-up.

Start a Gmail Account

Setting Up a Gmail Account for Your Child - Step 2
Go to to begin. Screenshot of Google application

An online email account is convenient because you can set it up and access it from any computer -- and delete messages you don't want your child to see from any computer, too. While there are many online e-mail providers to choose from, Gmail is my choice because it's easy to set up, has a nice uncluttered inbox, offers a large amount of storage for old messages, and gives your child access to other cool tools like a customizable search page, document creator, and calendar. Go to and click on "Sign up for Gmail."

[NOTE: Since Google, like most websites, frequently changes its design and presentation, some of the details and screenshots in the steps that follow may not look exactly like what you're seeing. However, they should give you an idea that you can find your way through the sign-up and setting process.]

Start Creating Your Google Account

Setting Up a Gmail Account for Your Child - Step 3
Start filling out the account application.

To get your child a Gmail address and all the other Google services that go with it, you'll need to fill out the form to create a Google account. Though you may be limited by availability, try to avoid using your child's full name -- first initials and last name, or a word that's memorable but not your child's name at all, would be preferable. Since you may want to access this account without your child present, make sure that the username and password are ones you will be able to remember. 

Finish Creating Your Google Account.

Setting Up a Gmail Account for Your Child - Step 4
Scroll down and complete the account application.

As you continue with the form, select a security question to which you will know the answer, too. Use your own email address as the secondary email, so that initial information about the account and correspondence regarding problems will come to you. Read the Terms of Service and, if appropriate, review them with your child. When you're ready, click on that button that says, "I accept. Create my account."

Go to Your New Gmail Account

Setting Up a Gmail Account for Your Child - Step 5
Congratulations! You've set up an account.

If your account application is successful, you'll come to this "Congratulations" screen. Familiarize yourself with Gmail if you like, then click on the link to go to your child's new Gmail inbox. If you don't come to this screen, there's probably a typo or omitted item in your application. Fix it, then move on from here.

Go to the 'Settings' Page

Setting Up a Gmail Account for Your Child - Step 6
Find the link for "Settings" and click it.

From the Gmail inbox, you can read the welcome message to learn more about Gmail, leave it for your child to read or delete it. Then click on the link at the top right side of the screen that says "Settings."

Go to the 'Forwarding and POP/IMAP' Page

Setting Up a Gmail Account for Your Child - Step 7
Select "Forwarding" from the settings tabs.

From the settings page, click on the link that says "Forwarding and POP/IMAP." This is the page that will allow you to forward your child's messages to your own email address.

Enter Your Forwarding Information

Setting Up a Gmail Account for Your Child - Step 8
Set Gmail to forward your child's messages to your e-mail.

Click on the circle next to "Forward a copy of incoming mail to" to select that option. Enter the e-mail address at which you want to receive copies of your child's emails in the box. Use the drop-down menu to choose what you want to happen to the messages in the Gmail inbox after they have been forwarded. If your child will be actively using the account, you'll probably want to leave them in the inbox; if not, set it to archive (messages are saved, but no longer show in the inbox) or delete the messages. When you're done, be sure to hit the "Save Changes" button at the bottom of the screen.

Set Your Email to Recognize the Forwarded Messages

Setting Up a Gmail Account for Your Child - Step 9
Set up your e-mail to flag your child's messages. Screenshot of Mac OS X Mail

Depending on your own particular email program, you may be able to set up some rules to mark the messages forwarded from your child's Gmail account. In Mac OS X Mail, I've set up a rule to make messages with my daughter's Gmail name in the "To" space appear in my inbox in orange type, so they stand out from my other messages. You might choose instead to have those forwards go into a specified folder. Refer to your software program's instructions for options on flagging incoming mail items.

Run a Test

Setting Up a Gmail Account for Your Child - Step 10
Give the new set-up a try. Screenshot of Google application

Send an email to your child's new Gmail account. Access the account to see if it arrived, then check to see if it's forwarded to your own inbox, formatted as you've set up. If everything's working, you'll know that any incoming mail to your child will be seen by you. It's not a perfect system; you'll still have to access the Gmail inbox directly to see any mail your child sends, and if your child at some point decides on privacy and changes the forwarding and password, you'll be out in the cold. But if your child is agreeable to your oversight, or you're just using the e-mail to access other services like iTunes, this set-up should work just fine.

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