Why my kids hate email

The kids.

As a marketer, parent and Girl Scout troop leader, I often hear it said that “young people today don’t use email.” And, for the most part, I, like everyone else of my generation, have rolled my eyes and complained that no one, in fact, wants to use email.

Email is just a fact of life – like death and taxes.

But this weekend, I asked my 13-year-old daughter, and member of Generation Z, why she had a problem with email and I realized my kids are not the problem.  The problem is us. 

We didn’t teach them proper etiquette
When my children wrote their first letter, I didn’t simply throw a pen and stationery at them and tell them to “have at it.” Instead, we showed them from salutation to signature, how to write a letter. As well as how to properly address and stamp the letter to ensure proper delivery.

And yet, did I do that when their school gave them an email address? Not really. And certainly not thoroughly, or regularly, enough. (Here kid, take this super powerful communications tool and go crazy!)

We expect more from them than from ourselves
Speaking of etiquette, in a classic example of “do as I say, not as I do,” we complain that kids don’t respond to emails – but I would suggest none of us are responding. I know, because I recently sent an email to our entire team, reminding them to vote for the agency, and not one person responded to acknowledge receipt or confirm they had voted. (To be fair, I also didn’t ask them to respond or confirm).

We didn’t teach them to use the tools
 As our daughter complained about the amount of junk email she gets – most, I’ll admit, she signed up to receive when she was in the super-excited phase of having her own email address – my husband and I asked her why she wasn’t using Google’s inbox tabs to filter out the emails. As she stared at me like I was speaking a foreign language I realized. . . she didn’t know about the tools available to her.

We’ve become so used to the idea that as “digital natives” our children inherently know more about technology than we do, it rarely occurs to us that we might know something they don’t.

We’re exposing their contact information through reckless cc’ing
I recently received an email from a professional contact that was also sent to over 30 other people. I know this because the sender did not use the blind cc function. Not only is this annoying because you just KNOW you are about to get hit with a deluge of “thank you’s” and “got it’s,” but also because the sender has practically invited recipients to scrape the list for potential sales.

We’re ignoring their requests to be unsubscribed
According to our daughter, she has tried to unsubscribe to emails but they just keep coming. And who can’t relate? Attempting to unsubscribe from Pinterest updates took me several tries.

We’re flooding them with useless notices
Looking into our daughter’s school email, I was struck by the number of unread messages she had from Google Classroom. When asked why she wasn’t reading them, she showed me that she was also receiving notices about the updates through the Google Classroom app – which meant she was being flooded with redundant and useless notices.

Quick fix – we turned off the email notices (again, which she didn’t realize was something she could do) and wiped the slate clean.

We’re using email when we should use text
I am as guilty of this as anyone – remember that email reminder I sent to my team? The fact is that didn’t need to clutter up their inbox. Instead, I should have used the Google Hangout function in GSuite to send the reminder.

We also use email when we could be using collaborative tools, or simply getting out of our chairs to have a conversation.

We’re shaming them instead of working with them
With all the eye-rolling and finger-wagging we do in response to the idea that the next generation won’t use email, who can blame them for not wanting to come to talk to us?

Perhaps, if we get our acts together, we can make email better, and more useful, for everyone.