#childsafety | Keep Your Kids Safe Online With These Tips

If the web were an amusement park attraction, you’d have to be 10 feet tall to ride—it’s terrifying enough for adults and a funhouse of horrors for kids, from inappropriate content to unkind comment sections to outright predators.

And yet! The internet also affords opportunities to learn, to socialize, to create. Besides, at this point trying to keep your kids off of it entirely would be like keeping them away from electricity or indoor plumbing. They’re going to get online. Your job is to help them make good choices when they get there.

Yes, there are parent-friendly routers you can buy, and software you can use, to limit your child’s access to the internet. But it’s more important to create a mental framework that helps keep your kids safe—and teaches them to protect themselves.

Adjust as Needed

One reason it’s so hard to offer concrete rules governing kids and the internet is that no two kids are alike. It’s like keeping kids safe after homecoming. Some might just need a curfew, others a breathalyzer.

Think of sending your kids out into the internet, then, in the same way you think about sending them out into the world. Different age groups require different amounts of oversight; even within a specific age, different kids have different inclinations, and with them different needs.

“You raise your kids all the time, and then one day you send them to the store on their own,” says Michael Kaiser, executive director of the National Cyber Security Alliance. “And you have no idea what they’re going to see between your house and the store, but you hope that you’ve raised them in a way that they can deal with whatever it is.”

As muddied a picture as it sounds, at least some legal guidelines exist. The Children’s Online Privacy Protection Rule, established in 1998, creates safeguards like keeping children off of social media under the age of 13. (Facebook has recently attempted to skirt that with a version of Messenger aimed at kids 6 and older.) Even so, millions of kids under 13 have found their way onto Facebook anyway, often with parental consent. Don’t give in!

“You do have parents who want their kids on Facebook so that they can communicate with grandma. They’ll actively encourage the kids to lie about their age,” says Stephen Balkam, ounder and CEO of the Family Online Safety Institute. “We’re trying to teach good digital citizenship to kids. If the first experience they have is to lie to get onto a platform, that’s about the worst kind of modeling you can offer.”

The more you instill that sense of structure in the early years, the more likely the dividends will pay off later.

“As your teen gets older, they’re going to be far more likely to find ways around any parental controls that you put on there,” Balkam says. Your goal, then, is to make sure that by that point, they don’t need them anymore anyway.

Bonus tip: Kaiser suggests that if and when you do give your child a smartphone or tablet, you help them through the setup process, making sure they know how to create a strong password, and establishing ground rules over who can and can’t download apps. “You create that kind of environment where there’s permission being asked,” Kaiser says.

Be an Example

Take a good look in the mirror: “Kids will far more do what you do as opposed to what you say,” Balkam says. “We get complaints from kids now that they can’t get their parent’s attention because they’re always on their laptops, or Dad always pulls out his phone at the restaurant.”

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