8 Internet Safety Tips for KidsWith increased access to the internet, it becomes even more important to understand tips for keeping kids safe online.

A child sits in front of a computer screen with headphones on

8 Tips for Keeping Kids Safe Online

According to the study, "The Common Sense Census: Media Use by Tweens and Teens" by Common Sense Media, American teenagers spend an average of just under nine hours consuming entertainment media, while tweens average just under six. This number is much less for some but significantly higher for others.

To put things into perspective, teens spend an average of over one-third of their day on entertainment media - and tweens average around a quarter of their day on entertainment media. With the amount of time that is spent online, It's important for parents to understand what they can do to keep their children safe and educated.

1. Understand the Dangers

The first step towards keeping your child safe online is to develop an understanding of the various dangers and risks that children are prone to. According to Norton, the most common threats children face online include:

  • Inappropriate content;
  • Predators;
  • Cyberbullying;
  • Online scams.

Have a conversation with your child about the various dangers that they may come across on the internet. This is a great segue into talking with your child about online guidelines and your personal regulations and expectations.

2. Protect Personal Information

Parents are responsible for teaching their children about their personal information that requires protection. Inform your children that Social Security numbers, account numbers, passwords, addresses, and phone numbers are things that should never be shared with anyone.

This is also a good chance to warn your children about ads or emails that offer "free" items. Encourage your children to use strong passwords with strong security questions as an extra measure. Indicate different ways that you can make your password stronger, and warn your children about poor practices with password creation such as using their birthdate, name, or common words.

3. Secure Devices & Accounts

Parents need to teach their children to secure their various devices and accounts. When children are younger, parents should be more active in helping them personally secure the devices and accounts they use or have access to. As the children get older, it is important to encourage and emphasize the importance of securing your devices and accounts. There are various tips for securing your accounts and devices - these tips include:

  • Change passwords on a regular basis for your devices and online accounts. Avoid using names, dates, or easily-guessable passwords. Keep these passwords to yourself, or immediate family/friends if necessary;
  • Avoid using the same password for all of your devices and accounts;
  • Install internet security and anti-virus software;
  • Ensure that your technology is up to date (e.g. computer, iPad, phone, etc.);
  • Limit access to your portable devices, and ensure that they are password-protected;
  • Enhance privacy settings on your the various social media that you choose to use;
  • Sign out of your various accounts (email, social, etc.) to avoid giving immediate access to outsiders;
  • Avoid saving your passwords both for your personal devices and on devices that are not owned by you;
  • Ensure that you are only connecting to secure wireless internet connections. Major internet service providers including AT&T , Sparklight , CenturyLink , Verizon , or Xfinity can answer questions about securing your wireless internet connection as well as renting routers and hardware to help you control local Wi-Fi in your home.

4. Set Boundaries for Screen Time

Every child is different so a strict set of rules surrounding screen time may not work for each child in the same way. Still, setting boundaries regarding the types activity a child can engage in online can help minimize the possibility of running into harmful content or interactions. Create a clear set of do's and don'ts and communicate these expectations to your children. Setting time limitations can help keep your children on task, but be mindful of the pace that each child learns and interacts online. Screen time limits followed by an offline review can help children retain online material and can also help kids stay focused when learning how to study from home. For children with web accessibility challenges, more time and/or specialized tools may be required.

5. Be Careful with Communications

You want to be aware of the way that your children use the internet for communication. Children can be susceptible to cyberbullying through social media, and total strangers may attempt to communicate with children online as well. Create an understanding of what is "okay" communicative behavior, and what is not. Encourage children only to add people they know, and to avoid ever responding to strangers, or unsolicited conversation if they are unsure of who the person is.

6. Adjust Rules as Needed

As your children get older, restrictions and expectations may need to be adjusted, and it is also important to consider new dangers and hazards that they become susceptible to. Different online risks, hazards, and threats pertain to various age groups, so new conversations need to be considered. The ways that your five-year-old is at-risk when using the internet will differ from the ways that your teenager is at-risk.

It also becomes important to set rules and regulations for yourself. If you have no boundaries in place, then your children may assume that once you become a certain age, rules no longer apply.

7. Establish Your Role

Parents will want to establish their role in how their children engage in activities online. Make sure to be clear on how you are going to monitor. This can be as simple as putting the computer - or browsing device - in a common area, or as far as looking through search history. It is important to communicate what you will be doing in your role monitoring.

8. Have a Conversation

The most important tip is to be open and honest about online use. It can seem like you are interrogating at times, but it is vital to have continual, ongoing conversations about going online. It is also important to encourage your children to ask questions about things they are concerned with online, or potential red flags that are being raised in a particular situation. New risks come into play as time goes on, and making sure that your children are using the web safely can help them focus on the various ways the internet can be good for your children.

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