Children should learn the importance of internet safety right alongside “stranger danger” and other childhood cautions. Not only could they encounter content that isn’t appropriate for children, but there is also the potential of exposing your devices to viruses and other security risks. That’s why internet safety for kids is so important.
Being proactive about internet safety for kids can help keep your children safe online and away from anything they shouldn’t see as well as keep your devices safe from harm. For that reason, parents should have tools and a framework for demonstrating how to use the internet in a safe and responsible way.
Internet safety tips for kids and their family
1. Talk about online safety with your kids
The first step in making sure your children are responsible with the internet is to explain the potential hazards.
Webwise suggests parents make agreements with their children on how to talk to other people online, how often the child should get online, what kind of sites are okay to visit and other internet topics that affect how kids use the internet. SafeKids.com has a nice example of internet rules a child might agree to follow.
For example, if your child likes to play video games on the internet, there are several areas of concern. Be sure they understand the importance of never downloading plug-ins or other software without asking a parent. This will keep your computer safe from malware and other security issues.
These games also have online chat features that may put your children in contact with strangers. Either instruct them to not use this feature or help them understand the importance of protecting personal information and avoiding malicious or dangerous behavior.
Talking about appropriate online behaviors and why cyber safety is so important sets a solid foundation for how your kids use the internet and smart devices.
2. Use the computer and internet together
The FBI suggests keeping your computer in an open, common room at home and even visiting social media sites with your child so you can discuss different sites’ risks together. Your child may not know how to use the computer safely, and when it comes to browsing the web, they could stumble into some unsightly areas.
When they’re young, teach your children the basic functions of the computer, especially when it comes to error reports or a crashed web browser. Otherwise, they may make problems on your computer worse when they occur.
When teaching your kids about surfing the internet, show them how to find sites they like or that may be appropriate for them. You can also talk about the dangers of sharing personal information and how to respond to pop-ups or risky ads. Many kids may accidentally end up in a bad spot online, so giving them the tools to avoid and combat dangerous situations is important.
3. Set up parental internet blocks
Another easy way to keep your kids safe online is to monitor or restrict internet use. There are a number of different resources that make it possible to keep your kids away from unwanted areas of the web.
Some internet service providers have instructions for setting up parental controls on your computer and TV. For instance, Xfinity has a guide to setting up parental controls using either their xFI app or using the Xfinity Wi-Fi Gateway.
Parental safety tools such as Safe Family by McAfee are also good options for protecting children online. These tools can limit the amount of time your children spend on the internet, restrict access to certain web pages and keep an eye on what sort of sites they are visiting.
4. Don’t forget about mobile risks for kids
One of the easiest places to overlook when it comes to protecting your children online is a smartphone. Many teens may opt to browse on a smartphone or tablet instead of a desktop computer, but the same rules for keeping your kids safe online still apply.
Consider using similar software to monitor what your children are doing on their phones. At the very least, be sure to touch base and discuss the importance of making good choices online with your teen. From gaming apps to using social media and communicating with peers, talk to your kids about the risks they may face.
You can start teaching internet safety today
Wondering how to protect my child on the internet is normal and doing so starts by having open conversations about cybersecurity with your entire family.
Whether you have toddlers who barely use smart devices or older children who are already well connected, it’s never too late to start talking about internet safety for kids. Making sure they browse safely and communicate wisely with others online will protect your home, personal information and most importantly, your kids’ emotional and physical safety.
Originally published 04/13/16. Last updated 08/23/19.