- From fun and games to school and work, kids and teens spend a lot of time online, which can expose them to dangers like scams, identity theft, and cyberbullies.
- Parents can help maintain internet safety for kids with proactive security measures and educational conversations.
- You can’t always watch over your kids, but protections like parental controls and preparation for online risks can keep your child safe and smart while browsing.
Many people spend a lot of time online, and our kids are no exception. Just like in the physical world, we want the time our kids spend online to be as safe as possible. Keeping up with all the internet fads and apps our kids encounter can be a whirlwind, but don’t fret! There are some cyber safety practices you can use to help your kids stay safe from inappropriate content, online predators, malware, and scams.
In this guide to internet safety, we’ll show you how to use technology and education to help your kids stay smart and safe online.
Be aware of your child’s online activities.
Supervising your kids online is one of the strongest ways to keep them safe from cyber threats. Keeping them safe is easier if you can be there to ensure they’re following cyber safety best practices. It’s important to remember, though, that there are many ways to supervise your children online. Here are a few internet safety tips to help you watch your kids when they’re on the web:
Go online together: Take time to go online with your child, especially when they’re young. You can play games together, look at a family member’s social media, or watch family-friendly YouTube videos.
Keep devices in public spaces: Put computers and internet access points in central locations in your house. Remove the expectation of privacy early on when it comes to their online activity.
Know where they go: Check out the apps, websites, and games your kids are using. Pay close attention to anything with chat features or the ability to share personal information or pictures.
Stay on the lookout: For teens on social media, check their profiles and posts occasionally. What are they posting? Who’s interacting with them? Consider setting rules about who they can add to their online social network, such as only family members or people they know in real life. Pay attention to signs of overuse or social stress like withdrawn behavior, outbursts, anxiety, and depression.
Put boundaries in place: Use security features and privacy settings provided by apps, websites, devices, and your internet service provider. These can help you create guardrails even when you can’t be there.
Teach your kids to be safe online.
Like the in-person world, you can’t always be with your child when they’re online. That’s why it’s good to help kids understand online dangers, safety protocols, and when to get a trusted adult involved as young as possible.
Kids and teens don’t have to become experts in cybersecurity to safely use the internet for fun, school, and even online jobs. They just need some basic safety knowledge. Understanding what phishing scams and malware are, when personal information is OK to give out, and when to block or report a person who makes them feel uncomfortable can go a long way in keeping them safe.
Here are some more tips on how to help your kids understand internet safety.
Parental controls can help maintain internet safety.
Parental controls are now built into computers, mobile devices, internet service providers, app stores, social media sites, and games. You can adjust privacy settings to create parameters around screen time and what websites kids can visit, and even set their mobile devices to prompt you to approve new apps they want to download.
Tell your kids about online privacy.
Teaching your kids what sensitive information is OK to share and when they may share it can help them stay safe from identity theft, phishing scams, cyberbullies, and online predators.
There may be a time when giving out a phone number, home address, or even a social security number is OK — like when making a credit card purchase at a trusted website or applying for a job — but most of the time it's better to keep this information private.
The same goes for personal photos, videos, or details of their private life and relationships. Explain to your kids that once something is put on the internet, it could be permanent — even if they delete it.
They should also know that activity or information they thought was private could become public in the event of a hack, someone using spyware, or the transferring of sensitive data while on public Wi-Fi. Keep operating systems and antivirus software up to date, limit use of public Wi-Fi, and create strong passwords to help keep private data secure.
Help kids steer clear of suspicious activity.
Internet safety is as much about who you interact with as how you interact with them. Social media, online forums, and chat rooms may pose a risk for minors regarding online predators, scammers, hackers, and cyberbullies. Kids should be aware that not everyone tells the truth about their identity online.
While scams and abuse can happen right in front of us, they can also be discreet. Red flags pop up if someone insists on communicating with your child through direct messages or instant messaging apps with end-to-end encryption or if they request personal information or any monetary transaction. Similarly, if they ask your child to click a link or download something, this may be suspicious.
Keep track of your child’s online activity and who they’re interacting with to keep some of these online threats at bay. Also, empower kids to say no to inappropriate requests. Tell them they should come to you or a trusted adult if someone makes them uncomfortable.
Stay a step ahead of scammers.
Understanding the most common scams and how they work can thwart most other security risks.
Phishing scams are becoming more popular. These scams are when a perpetrator tries to convince you they’re someone else to get information from you. These scams can happen through phone calls and text messages, but online they’re usually done by luring you to a copycat of a trusted website.
Phishing scams like this can be avoided by typing in URLs, opening your bookmarks, or visiting your app instead of clicking on links, especially when visiting a bank's website or logging in to your social media. Check the address bar to ensure the URL is correct before entering your login information.
Remind your child that these scams exist, and even something that looks official can be a trick. Keeping a healthy amount of skepticism whenever someone asks for personal information is a solid internet safety skill to teach your kids.
Keep your devices and computers protected.
The internet is full of malware and computer viruses that can damage your computer, mine your data, or spy on you and your kids. There are also many ways to keep your computer running smoothly and spyware-free.
Operating systems (OS) are regularly updated with new features and security patches. Making sure your OS and all your software are up to date is a great way to limit your system’s vulnerabilities. Antivirus software can also add a layer of protection.
Even with these bases covered, it's a good idea to make sure you and your kids stay vigilant. Sketchy downloads and links can punch a hole in your cyber safety.
Keep kids safe online.
Teaching your kids internet safety is as important as keeping them safe outside. As we spend more of our lives on the internet, understanding how to navigate malware, scams, and predators becomes vital. By teaching your kids to keep their devices updated, having them carefully select their social network, and keeping personal information private, the internet can become a safe space for your kids.
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