How old do you have to be to open a Gmail account?

Gmail on phone screen in hand
(Image credit: Future)

Best answer: In the U.S. and Canada, you have to be at least 13 in order to have a Gmail account. This number, however, varies depending on the country in which you reside. In some countries, it’s actually as old as 16. You can, however, set up and manage an account for your child via Family Link, which lets them access Google services like Gmail and YouTube.

The best way to set up a Gmail account for a teen

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Anyone aged 13 and above can set up and manage their own Google accounts in the U.S. or Canada. The minimum age restriction is in place because of the Children's Online Privacy Protection Act (COPPA). This act limits online services from collecting personal information of users under the age of 13 without their parental consent.

Even at 13, however, it’s still wise to educate kids on using e-mail safely and securely should you decide that they are mature enough to add an e-mail address to their list of Google services.

As it's not feasible for services to get parental permission for every underage user that signs up, online services restrict users 13 and below from setting up an account. For instance, if you set up an account for your kid under a different age, and if Google becomes aware of that fact, it will lock that account.

You can, however, set up a Family Link account and include your children with that, setting them up with e-mail addresses through there. This is because Family Link accounts are managed by the adult/parent/guardian. For a child to manage their own account, however, they would have to be at least 13.

If you feel strongly that your 12-year-old should have an e-mail account, you can go the Family Link route, or even set up a secondary e-mail account for yourself that you give them permission to use, but that you also maintain full access to. As long as you’re responsible about it and are confident that your pre-tween is responsible as well, this is a good way to ease them into eventually having an account of their own.

Case in point: my 11-year-old son has “his own” G-mail account where he receives e-mails from and sends them to a limited selection of approved contacts, including his parents, grandparents, and other family members and close friends. But if he’s ever signing in for an app of any kind to play a game, for example, I do it for him using my e-mail address for verification. I also have full access to his e-mail account and maintain primary ownership of it.

If your child who is 13 or older already has a Google account for access to services like YouTube or Google Drive, you can easily add an e-mail address to the equation. If they receive the “Ask a parent” pop-up message when trying to access a blocked app or one that requires you to input an e-mail address, you can upgrade their account to add one. You can add a Gmail address using the parent account on your device, or log in directly from theirs.

While 13 years is the standard minimum age for most countries, there are several regions around the world where it's usually higher. In many countries around the world, the required age to have a Gmail account is 16 or older. Austria, Cyprus, Italy, Lithuania, Spain, South Korea, Peru, and Venezuela, however, all permit access at 14 years old and Czech Republic, France, and Vietnam at 15. But North America has the lowest age requirement for setting up e-mail.

Thus, the most logical way to create a Google account for someone under the age of 13 is via Family Link. The feature lets parents set up and manage a Google account for their kids, with the ability to set activity controls and content restrictions.

For Gmail accounts used by kids under the age of 13, there are a few differences. Google doesn't serve ads within Gmail or read the contents of the mails for targeted advertising. Automatic forwarding and Gmail offline are also not available to underage users. Any mail that Google identifies as spam will not be delivered to the inbox or even the spam folder.

If you're looking to get your kid set up with Gmail, the best option right now is through Family Link. The robust set of controls on offer makes it extremely easy to configure an account for your children and set safeguards in the form of SafeSearch, downloads, and purchases, and screen time limits.

Once they have an account set up, they can read through some Gmail tips and tricks to get the most out of the service. 

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Christine Persaud
Contributor

Christine Persaud has been writing about tech since long before the smartphone was even a "thing." When she isn't writing, she's working on her latest fitness program, binging a new TV series, tinkering with tech gadgets she's reviewing, or spending time with family and friends. A self-professed TV nerd, lover of red wine, and passionate home cook, she's immersed in tech in every facet of her life. Follow her at @christineTechCA.