Many of us can’t fathom lives without the internet — this coming from parents who, at one point, did survive without the internet. And that’s to say nothing of our struggle with cringe-worthy dial-up! Our kids, on the other hand, hail from a generation that has never known an existence without the internet. So it’s no wonder they lean on it like it’s another appendage. But not all screen time is created (or should be treated) equally, especially when it comes to internet safety for kids.
Yes, the internet can be fun for games and connecting with friends, but it can also be a potentially dangerous area for children. There are many potential predators, cyberbullies, and identity thieves online. Plus, it’s far too easy to access information and images that are not at all age-appropriate for some kiddos, whether they’re in elementary school or their teen years. All of these reasons illustrate the importance of implementing rules and strategies around internet safety for your kids. We’d go so far as to say doing so is as important as teaching them about stranger danger and how to cross the street properly.
Talking to your kids about how and when they spend their time online can help them stay safe while also enjoying all the gifts that the wide world web has to offer (yes, we said wide world web because we are that old). Not sure how to start the conversation? Keep reading for help navigating this vital parenting topic.
Internet Safety for Kids
It definitely can be a challenge to ensure your kid is safe online at all times, particularly if they’re older and have access to a computer or mobile device. However, you can develop a few things with your kids to teach them how to create a healthier relationship with the internet.
Have your computer in a common area.
By stationing the family computer in a common area, such as the kitchen or living room, you’ll be able to monitor your kid’s activity online more closely. As a bonus, you’ll be available for any questions they might have.
Bookmark your kids’ top sites.
Doing this not only saves them plenty of time and prevents them from potentially going on a “bad” site (we’re looking at you, Omegle), but it will also alert you to what they’re perusing on the internet.
Ask your kids what they are interested in most online.
This way, you can implement parameters over what they can and cannot access, vetoing anything that doesn’t fit within those rules. At the same time, if what they want to do online works for both of you, that serves as an excellent opportunity to learn more about where their curiosities lie. The more you know about what they’re checking out online, the more comfortable you’ll feel about their safety.
Teach your kids to use social networking sites safely.
Sites like TikTok and Instagram are catnip for kids who want to share photos and videos of themselves with their friends and family. But it’s alarmingly easy for those images and videos to fall into the wrong hands. Talk to your children about the importance of posting something online only if they’re comfortable with everyone in the world seeing it, as well as encouraging them to have private-only accounts.
Ask your child to come to you if they encounter a problem.
It’s always a good idea to provide a safe space for your kid if they encounter an issue, even if it’s something you might disapprove of. It’s always better for your kids to share things openly rather than hide them. That way, you can support them as soon as possible. And keep in mind that your child might encounter a not-so-great site or person while doing all the “right” things.
Internet Safety Tips
Rule of thumb? Keep some general safety tips near the family computer whenever your kid is using the internet. Here are some for your kid to follow.
- Don’t give anyone your password, name, address, the name of your school, or any information about your family.
- Never agree to get together in person with anyone you meet online.
- Never respond to a threatening email, message, post, or text, and always tell your parents if you’ve received such a message.
- Don’t talk to strangers on the internet.
- Don’t fill in a profile that asks for your name and address.
- Use only a screen name, and don’t share passwords (other than with parents).
- Don’t visit a chat room without an adult’s — preferably your parents’ — permission.
- Don’t visit a site if you see something you think your parents won’t like.
- Don’t post pictures of yourself without your parents’ permission (unless you have an agreement on specific photos that are okay to share).
- Do not download or install anything on your computer without your parents’ permission.
- If you have any questions about something you read or viewed online, ask your parent or guardian about it.
- If someone you’re talking to online makes you uncomfortable, remember you don’t have to respond.