Internet Safety for Kids: 6 Tips for Online Safety | TechDen

The internet provides your kids with seemingly endless opportunities to play, connect, learn and explore their creativity with their tablets, smartphones and smart devices. However, with these opportunities comes the potential for danger from cyberbullying and online predators. A report by the Center for Technology Information at Brookings shared that most children who experience aggressive online solicitations do not mention the solicitations to anyone. Just as in their everyday lives, your kids need your guidance and supervision when it comes to staying safe online.

Use these six internet safety tips for kids to keep them safe and happy while they enjoy their screen time.

1. Use an Online Protection Tool

According to Kids Health from Nemours, online protection tools are beneficial for helping control your kids’ internet access, such as protecting them from internet predators and preventing access to adult material. You can download software to restrict personal information from being sent online and to limit access to certain websites on your child’s smart device. If your kids use an Android device, download Google Family Link, or if they use an Apple device, set up a Family Sharing account to control their online access.

2. Agree to Boundaries

Talk to your kids and let them know what’s OK and what’s not OK to do online. Let them know how much screen time is acceptable every day, discuss the kind of information that they can share with others online and let them know the types of sites they are allowed to visit. The U.S. Justice Department points out that clear rules are necessary to help your kids understand online risks and dangerous situations. Tell your child to let you know if they ever encounter anything scary or harmful online.

3. Monitor Your Child’s Activity

Knowledge is power. Knowing what your child is doing online cannot only keep them safe, it can also ease your worries. The National Cybersecurity and Communications Integration Center advises parents to maintain awareness of their child’s online activity by monitoring which websites they visit and talking with their child about who they communicate with through email, social media or online chat apps. Check your child’s history periodically and monitor their social media accounts for suspicious activity.

4. Set Healthy Screen Time Limits

The more time your child spends online, the higher the chances are that they will run into trouble in the form of cyberbullying, objectionable content and online predators. The Center for Parenting Education states that kids who spend much of their time online also have a higher risk of obesity, more trouble getting to bed, and a higher chance of developing anxiety, depression and attention-deficit/hyperactivity disorder (ADHD). The Mayo Clinic recommends minimizing screen time for children younger than 2, allowing no more than one hour of screen time daily for children aged 2 to 5, and minimizing recreational or enjoyment-related screen time to no more than two hours per day for older children and teens. Use a screen time management app such as the TechDen app to set up allowable screen time sessions for your child.

5. Talk to Your Kids About Cyberbullying

Cyberbullying is increasingly common on social media sites and in email, text messages and games. According to the Federal Trade Commission, cyberbullying can involve spreading rumors, posting images about a person to make them feel bad, or creating an online group to make someone feel left out. Talk to your kids about cyberbullying and let them know that they should always tell you if they feel threatened or hurt by something that happens online. Look at your child’s social media page periodically, as comments other children leave can often be hurtful or mean. Tell your child that it’s OK to tell the bully to stop, to not react to the bullying, and to block or delete the bully.

6. Watch Out for Phishing Scams and Malware

You probably know not to click on that URL that looks like it comes from your bank, but your kids might not be so savvy. Let your kids know they shouldn’t respond to texts, emails or pop-ups that ask for personal information and that they should not follow any links in those messages. Educate your kids about malware and inform them to be aware of freebies, such as free ringtones, games and other downloads, which often contain harmful software. Instruct your kids to first scan any download with security software before they install it on their device.

Keeping your child safe online is a collaborative effort that requires open communication and positive role-modeling. Teaching the skills they need to keep themselves safe is one of the best ways to help your child enjoy online access as responsibly as possible.

Stacy Mosel, LMSW is a TechDen contributing blog writer and a licensed social worker, psychotherapist, certified Reiki practitioner, yoga enthusiast and musician. She received a Bachelor’s degree in Music from the State University of New York at Stony Brook in 1999 and a Master of Social Work from New York University in 2002. She has had extensive training in child and family therapy and the identification and treatment of mental health disorders.