The Parent’s Guide to Internet Safety
Do you remember when families shared one desktop computer in the living room? Today, a computer in the living room is supplemented by tablets in the kitchen, video games in the bedroom, and smartphones in everyone’s pocket. Thanks to the emergence of universal high-speed internet access and affordable mobile devices, our kids are growing up in a digital world.
According to the American Community Survey (ACS), 95 percent of 3- to 18-year-olds had home internet access in 2019. As a parent, monitoring your child’s internet use and teaching them how to stay safe online is important. Just as you would never send your child outside without teaching them about stranger danger, it’s important to have a conversation with your kids about internet safety.
This guide will cover the basics of internet safety for kids, including tips on protecting your child from online predators, cyberbullying, and other risks.
What Is Internet Safety?
Internet safety is the knowledge and practices users should adopt to protect themselves and their information from online threats. It includes measures to protect against malware, phishing, identity theft, online scams, and other online dangers.
Internet safety also encompasses protecting your child from inappropriate content and contact with online predators. With the rise of social media and chat apps, it’s easier for predators to contact children and teens online. They may pose as a friend or peer to gain your child’s trust and then attempt to groom them for sexual exploitation.
According to the National Center for Missing and Exploited Children (NCMEC), there were more than 29 million reports of suspected child sexual exploitation in 2021, an increase of 35 percent from 2020. These cases can involve solicitation (asking a child to send explicit images), production (forcing a child to produce sexually explicit content), or trafficking (arranging for a child to engage in sexual activity for financial gain).
It’s important to teach your kids about internet safety so they can protect themselves from these dangers.
5 Tips for Keeping Your Child Safe Online
You can take several steps to keep your child safe online, including monitoring their internet use, teaching them about internet safety, and using parental control tools.
Teach Your Child About Internet Safety
Safety in the physical world starts with education; the same is true for safety online. Talk to your kids about internet safety, helping them to understand the risks and how to protect themselves. By teaching them about the potential risks and how to stay safe, you can help them navigate the online world more safely.
Monitor Your Child’s Internet Use
Monitoring your child’s internet use is one of the best ways to keep them safe online. This means paying attention to the websites they visit, their apps, and the people they interact with online. If you notice your child is visiting inappropriate websites, using unsafe apps, or talking to strangers online, take action immediately. You may need to block certain websites and apps, limit their internet use, or discuss internet safety with them.
Use Parental Control Tools
In addition to teaching your child about internet safety and monitoring your child’s internet use, you can also use parental control tools to help keep them safe online. Parental control tools are software programs that allow you to monitor your child’s internet use and block access to inappropriate websites and content. Some parental control tools also allow you to set time limits for internet use, track your child’s online activity, and receive alerts if they attempt to access blocked websites or content.
Here are a few tactics that can be used to keep your kids safe online:
- Activate parental controls on your children’s devices so you can monitor their activity and screen time
- Research the security features of the devices your kids use
- Use unique and hard-to-guess passwords
- Keep your software and apps up to date
- Use multi-factor authentication when possible
- Review social media privacy settings
- Avoid connecting to unsecured Wi-Fi networks
- Install a comprehensive security solution on all devices that can access the internet
- Keep an open dialogue with your kids about their online activity and concerns
Take an Inventory of Your Child’s Devices
Keep an eye on the devices your children use to access the internet. In addition to computers, this may include smartphones, tablets, gaming consoles, and smart TVs. Not all devices are created equal when it comes to internet safety. Some devices may have fewer built-in security and parental control options than others. This means they may be more vulnerable to online threats, such as malware and online predators.
- Gaming Consoles: Some gaming consoles, such as the Xbox One and PlayStation 4/5, come with built-in parental controls that allow you to limit the amount of time your children can play and the types of games they can access. You can also set up separate user accounts for each child to monitor their activity.
- Smartphones and Tablets: Smartphones and tablets usually have built-in security features, such as screen locks and app permissions, that can help protect your children from online threats. You can also install parental control apps on these devices to help you monitor your children’s activity and block inappropriate content.
- Computers: You can use parental control software to help you monitor your children’s computer activity and block inappropriate websites and content. You can also set up separate user accounts for each child to control what they can access on the computer.
Stay Up-To-Date on the Latest Internet Safety Threats
The internet is constantly changing, which means the threats to your child’s safety online are also constantly changing. It’s important to stay up-to-date on the latest internet safety threats so you can protect your child.
To help you stay informed, here are a few of the most common internet safety threats to be aware of:
Cyberbullying: this is when someone uses the internet to bully or harass others. This can include sending mean or threatening messages, spreading rumors, or publishing private information.
- Have a conversation with your child about cyberbullying and what to do if they experience it.
- Encourage your child to speak to you or another trusted adult if they are being cyberbullied.
- Block and report any accounts that are cyberbullying your child.
- Take screenshots or save any messages or images that are part of cyberbullying.
Online Predators: Online predators are adults who use the internet to target children for sexual exploitation. They may pose as children or teenagers in online chat rooms or social media platforms to gain your child’s trust.
- Tell your child not to share personal information, such as their name, address, or school, with anyone online.
- Encourage your child to use the privacy settings on social media platforms and only accept friend requests from people they know.
- Tell your child not to meet up with someone they met online.
- Report any suspicious behavior to the police.
Inappropriate Content: This content can damage children and teenagers, so it’s important to monitor their internet use and ensure they are not viewing this type of content.
- Install filters and parental controls on all devices that can access the internet.
- Monitor your child’s internet use and look for warning signs that they are viewing inappropriate content.
- Talk to your child about what they should do if they accidentally stumble across inappropriate content online.
- Report any websites or content that you find to be inappropriate.
Remember, the internet can be a great tool for kids when used correctly. Just supervise their activity, set clear rules, and talk to them about online safety. Like children are taught to be careful around strangers in real life, the same goes for the internet.