Internet Safety for Kids in 2023: Tips and Rules To Protect Your Children
- Table of Contents
- Online Dangers & Internet Safety for Kids
- What Threats Do Kids Face Online?
- 1. Cyberbullying
- 2. Cyber Predators
- 3. Online Scams
- 4. Identity Theft
- How to Protect Your Kids From Other Online Threats
- How to Talk to Your Kids About Internet Safety
- Internet Safety Rules for Kids
- Final Thoughts: Internet Safety for Kids
You’re about to send your kids out into the online world, and you want them to be safe. Of course, it’s difficult for young children to understand why you’re worried. After all, they’re just playing games or watching their friends’ TikToks, right? Can there really be any online risks? Why are you making a “big deal” about internet safety for kids?
The “big deal” is that people online aren’t always who they say they are. There are many online predators, identity thieves and scammers who have exploited children before. Keeping children safe online is more important today than ever.
With children spending an increasing amount of time online — whether it’s on a computer, tablet or cell phone — it’s crucial to teach them how to navigate the web in a safe and responsible way.
Whether it’s protecting their privacy from an online predator or shielding them from inappropriate websites, parents must be aware of what their kids are doing when they’re online — and how to keep them safe. Keep reading to find out how you can get started.
How do you explain internet safety to a child?Be straightforward with the child about the dangers of the internet and why you wish to protect them. Try to use examples to demonstrate how the internet can be harmful and how it has been in the past.
How can students be safe online?Students can use kid-friendly browsers that restrict harmful content. They should also be educated by their parents and school on safe online practices.
How do I protect my child from inappropriate internet content?You can use parental control software and censor inappropriate content to ensure your child is not at risk of encountering sexually explicit content or sites.
Online Dangers & Internet Safety for Kids
It’s no secret that the internet has changed the way we live. It has also changed the way our children play. On average, children spend more than seven hours per day using media devices. This means they probably spend around the same time scrolling on screens as they do sleeping.
It’s important for parents to find the right balance between allowing their children to have fun and learn new things online, vs keeping them safe from the dangers that lurk on the internet.
What Threats Do Kids Face Online?
From cyberbullying to online predators to inappropriate behavior and content, there are many ways children can be negatively affected by what they see or experience online. Here are some of the greatest threats your children may encounter online.
- Cyber predators
- Online scams
- Identity theft
- Inappropriate content
Cyberbullying is not just a computer problem; it’s a manifestation of the age-old desire bullies have to get even and intimidate others. But with the rise of the internet and the veil of anonymity that it provides, it’s a lot easier for bullies to spread hate online. It’s a new avenue they use to target victims.
Sometimes, bullies will make fun of their victim or send them nasty messages. Other times, bullies might attach themselves to victims by increasing the victims’ emotional attachment. One way they may do this is by posing as a well-intentioned friend or online gaming buddy.
Bullying occurs anywhere there’s an internet connection: on school computers, at home, on cell phones and other mobile devices. This has especially been the case since COVID hit the world and online classes became the new norm. In fact, there was a 70% increase in online bullying since lockdowns were initiated.
The internet makes it easy for bullies to go after people far away from them, including most kids.
Protect Your Kids from Cyberbullying
How can you protect your kids online? Every parent has a different response to this, but there are three key things to keep in mind.
First, it’s easy for kids to be cruel online. Cyberbullying is a real threat to children and their self-esteem. There’s a difference between online and real-world bullying also, in the sense that online there’s nowhere to hide. A mean comment can be seen by everybody.
Second, kids don’t always understand online privacy or have good judgment. They might be too trusting online, act rashly or become victims of cyberbullying (or bullies themselves) without meaning to.
In fact, 81% of youth believe cyberbullies think bullying is funny, and that humor is the main reason for the bullying. This means that most bullies probably don’t even take the repercussions of their actions seriously.
Third, the best way to keep your kids safe online is by showing them how to recognize cyberbullying. They need to learn that no one should ever be rude or mean online and that it’s important to report any mean comments they read.
Here are some key ways to counter that.
- Know the signs
For example, if your child becomes increasingly withdrawn from family and friends, they might be getting cyberbullied. Some get more secretive about their online activities or avoid the computer or cell phone whenever you’re around.
They might hide their phone when you approach or switch screens quickly. They may even set up screen locks, justifying the behavior by claiming it’s for their own online privacy.
- Educate them about common forms of cyberbullying before they get online
Bullies target their victims’ weaknesses. Often, the most vulnerable kids are targeted first. Discuss what bullying is and how cyberbullying works with your children. Explain that bullies may make threats, humiliate others via text messages, post embarrassing photos online or use phones to spread rumors about people.
- Report the bullies
Teach your kids how to take action when they encounter a bully online by ceasing all contact with them and reporting them to the proper authorities. Educate them on the importance of reporting bullying even if they’re not the ones involved.
- Talk to school administrators about a plan of action (and bring evidence)
If you find out your child is being bullied by peers online, ask the administration to address it. You may be surprised at how many schools have no formal protocol for dealing with cyberbullying, so the best thing you can do as a parent is provide guidance to your child on how to gather and present evidence regarding the incident.
When you do talk to administrators, give your child the chance to be present, so they feel empowered to speak up too.
- Teach your child not to become a cyberbully
Your child may see it as a joke or harmless prank and not realize their actions online can hurt others. Kids may not associate the online world with reality, forgetting that real people are on the other side of the screen.
It’s important to make them aware. Teach your kids the damage cyberbullying can have and hand out punishments like revoking their internet access if they engage in such activities.
2. Cyber Predators
Cyber predators are people who use the internet to find and exploit children. They are often adults, but only 5% even pretend to be kids, with most predators revealing that they’re older. The average age of an online predator is said to be over 18 years.
An internet predator might target a child for grooming, which means they form a bond with the victim and lower their self-esteem in order to exploit them later.
Predators may conduct online chats with children under false pretenses. Or they might lure children into sexually explicit chat rooms or invite them to meet up in person without their parents’ knowledge.
Cyber predators use the internet to trick children into sharing personal information and sending sexually explicit images. In fact, 89% of sexual advances toward children happen in chat rooms.
Many children have been tricked by cyber predators and have sent pictures of themselves or their friends, with those between the age of 12 and 15 being the most victimized. Children have also been coerced by cyber predators into revealing their passwords and online accounts.
Protect Your Kids From Predators
It’s hard to protect kids from predators online. The best solution is to teach them how to protect themselves. Here are some useful internet safety tips for kids:
- Don’t talk to strangers online
This is a good IRL rule of thumb to stick to online. You can’t verify who you’re talking to online as it’s all done through a screen. People can easily lie about who they are, so kids should be more cautious of who they interact with.
- Keep personal information private
Kids should understand that what they post online is available for the world to see forever. they shouldn’t include their name, birthday or address in any form of communication on the internet. Talk to your kids. Explain that your child’s personal information needs to stay private.
- Assume all contact is public
It’s important for kids to know that private messages can become public and that even deleted messages or pictures can reappear at any time (thanks to screenshots). So instruct them not to write or send anything they wouldn’t want their friends or parents to see.
- Encourage open communication
Tell your kids they can come to you for help if they ever feel pressured to do something sexual online or see anything beyond their comfort zone.
- Teach them to report criminal activity
Your children should also feel empowered to report if the need arises. Tell them how the police, FBI and National Center for Missing & Exploited Children (NCMEC) work if they ever feel the need to submit a report themselves.
3. Online Scams
We have all heard of internet scams: fake websites that look like real online stores, romance scammers on dating sites, etc.
Online scams can occur in many places that kids want to explore. They can be fun and interesting: websites that let kids interact with other kids, online games or chat rooms where they can talk to people in other countries. The bad part is some of the sites have fake pictures or names and ask for personal details.
Or they could offer a reward for your child’s personal information. For example, they could tempt your child into “free V-bucks” so they can upgrade their gear on that video game — only to have that money go to a scammer.
In exchange for a reward, the child is convinced to click through ads, do surveys and (in extreme cases) provide financial information. In the end, they don’t get any V-bucks to rock on in Fortnite. They’re just scammed.
In other scams, the child may be redirected to a third-party site to pay to complete inauthentic transactions, leading to the money going straight to the scammers.
Protect Your Kids From Scams
The internet is a great place to learn, but it’s also a place where scammers reside. Here are some things you can do to protect your kids from becoming victims of a scam.
- Teach them basic internet security protocols
They should never click on an attachment or link in a suspicious email or download anything from an unknown source. Tell them how this could lead to malware being downloaded onto the device and explain the dangers of viruses.
- Teach them how to recognize spam emails
Spam emails often contain odd capitalizations and typos. The language can be aggressive with a sense of urgency to do something like send money quickly. The email IDs may also have a subtle difference, like Amazzon.com instead of Amazon.com. At first glance, this would not be visible, so it’s very important for kids to know the signs.
- Teach them to think before they share
Kids should treat their information with respect and not share it with anyone they don’t know personally. Preferably, before sharing any kind of personal information online, they should come to you first and inform you of who the person is and why they need to share the information in the first place.
- Educate them on how to create strong passwords
They should also keep passwords secure and change them regularly. Teach them to create passwords with a mix of symbols, numbers and letters. It should also have a minimum of eight characters to be secure.
- Teach them about gaming safely
Lots of kids play games on the internet. Teach kids to do so without divulging personal details and never let them spend money without your permission.
- Encourage them to talk to you
This is especially important for times when they have any questions or issues regarding online safety. Let them know they’ll never get in trouble if they tell you what they’re doing online; otherwise, they may keep things secret and face online dangers alone.
4. Identity Theft
Identity theft has been around for as long as people have had bank accounts, credit cards and computers. In fact, 15 million people in the U.S. experience identity theft every year.
Today’s kids are growing up in a world where the internet is their main source of information, entertainment and communication. They are at great risk of identity theft because there are so many ways that information about them can be stolen.
If they’re not careful, they could give out personal identifying information to strangers on the internet. They might use your credit card without telling you and provide sensitive financial information by accident.
Children are naturally trusting due to their innocence and may unwittingly get involved with an identity theft scammer if they’re not too careful.
Protect Your Kid From Identity Theft
Children are particularly vulnerable to identity thieves. Their social security numbers have likely never been used for credit, their birthdays are easy to find on social media sites, and parents normally don’t think to check their kid’s credit history because it shouldn’t exist.
If someone uses their social security number to open a line of credit, it could be a long time before anyone finds out. There are steps you can take to help protect your child’s identity and prevent it from being stolen.
- Put a security freeze on your child’s credit report
A security freeze is a way to block credit reporting agencies from releasing your child’s information without your consent. It’s an easy way to block someone from using a social security number for credit.
The law is different in each state, so you’ll need to check with the credit bureaus in your area to see if they allow minors’ accounts to be frozen. Some states don’t allow security freezes for children under the age of 16.
- Safeguard your child’s social security number
Be careful about who has access to medical records and school records that contain your child’s social security number. Keep in mind that, in many cases, identity theft can come from someone you know.
- Check site security when submitting important information
Only use secure websites when submitting sensitive information via your web browser. Check for the “https://” prefix in the URL and the closed lock icon in your browser window.
How to Protect Your Kids From Other Online Threats
When you were a kid, your parents probably made you wear sunscreen all the time. They probably also told you to never talk to strangers, and if someone tried to grab you in the park, to scream like hell.
You want to apply the same practice with your own kids, both for their real-life and online safety. So slap on some online “sunscreen” — let’s go over some more rules for keeping your kids safe on the internet.
Protect Your Kids From Harmful or Inappropriate Content
There are many places online where kids may come across harmful or inappropriate content, and they don’t always know how to avoid it. Fortunately, as a parent, you can use parental control software to help protect your children.
Here are ways you can do that:
- Set up parental controls
This includes on your computer, phone and even the router if necessary. Parental controls will ensure your children aren’t accessing any pre-approved sites, reducing the chances of stumbling onto harmful content or predators online.
Parental control options also allow parents to limit how much time children spend online by setting a daily limit or turning off online access during certain hours. In addition, many parental control programs notify parents with an email or text message when their children attempt to visit a blocked site or exceed the time limit.
However, if you have installed a VPN on the devices, read the VPN vs parental controls guides to learn how to block kids from bypassing the parental controls.
- Create separate accounts for your children
You don’t want your kids to be browsing the internet through the admin account, as it will enable them to see anything they want. You can set different levels of controls using your admin privileges on your childrens’ accounts. This can allow you to set restrictions specifically depending on your children’s ages.
- Stay logged out of your online accounts
Avoid using autofill for these accounts so your kids don’t go snooping on your personal accounts where there might not be any filters. You should get into the practice of logging in fresh each time you access an account, especially sensitive ones.
- Use age-appropriate filters
Ensure they protect against content inappropriate for children such as porn, inappropriate games online or even adult shopping sites.
- Explore kid-friendly browsers and search engines
These have a predetermined database of safe sites for children to visit. Popular kid-friendly browsers include Kiddle and SPIN.
- Know what your child is doing online
If they want to access a new site, tell them to run it by you first. You can check it out yourself and see whether it’s safe enough for them to visit. Have regular check-ins about how they’re spending their time online as well.
- Monitor their social networking accounts
Make sure they are not sharing too much personal information or pictures on Instagram or TikTok. It’s easy for kids to get carried away on social media, so you can remind them of how to stay safe on it as they grow.
- Be a good role model
Set an example of good online behavior for your kids. Exercise restraint on how much time you spend in front of a screen yourself. Practice what you preach, so they aren’t tempted to explore suspicious sites on their own for fun.
How to Talk to Your Kids About Internet Safety
If you’re the parent of a kid who uses the internet, you should be talking to them about online safety tips. But how can you keep kids safe without coming off as the villain?
The best strategy is to talk openly with your kids. The more matter-of-fact it is, the better. You can be more transparent with them depending on the age group. They should learn from you, a trusted authority figure in their life, about the potential dangers of the internet than from their peers who may not have all the facts or get them right.
What makes this conversation so challenging is that kids might not always recognize the risks associated with certain actions online. They may want to do things that put them in danger because all their friends are doing them or because they want to challenge authority. The more they understand the risks, the more they’ll understand what you need to do to protect them.
Share & Encourage Questions
A good way for you to start talking about safety online is to share some of your own experiences with the internet, especially if you were bullied or harassed in the past. This helps your kids understand that you have their best interests at heart and don’t want them to experience the same things you did as a child on the internet.
Remember, your kids should always feel comfortable coming to you for advice about any issues they face in life and especially on the internet. Kids also break the rules (as we all do growing up). For example, they could be hanging out on a Discord server or playing games you didn’t approve of. If an incident occurs, they might be scared to confide in you if they think it will get them in more trouble.
Don’t be too judgmental or harsh when talking to your child about what they do online and how they behave towards others. Instead, be empathic and speak to them on their level, so it’s easier for them to understand why the talk is necessary in the first place. Let them ask as many questions as they need and answer them patiently.
Internet Safety Rules for Kids
In addition to having an open dialogue with their kids, parents should also encourage healthy media habits and reinforce parental controls already in place. This involves setting ground rules for online activities and making sure they understand them.
Teaching kids the importance of the rules is important, so they understand why you’re concerned about their internet use. These are some examples of rules that you can set.
Rules for Kids
- Never give out personal information, including your school name, cell phone number and address.
- Avoid posting photos of yourself on social media (until a certain age).
- Stick to apps or helpful tools you trust with your parents’ permission.
- Be transparent about what you’re doing online. For example, if they have a friend they met online, they should inform you.
- Exercise responsible online behavior. Be nice to others on the internet and don’t engage in any negative behavior.
- If someone is nasty to you online, block them and inform a trusted adult immediately (like a parent or teacher, depending on the scenario).
- Don’t believe everything you read online, even on trusted sites.
- If you think you’ve accidentally downloaded malicious software, don’t be scared to tell your parents.
Final Thoughts: Internet Safety for Kids
The more time a child spends online, the higher their chances are of encountering online threats and dangers. Whether they’re on social networking sites or using internet access for school research, it’s your responsibility to protect children from being bullied online or accessing inappropriate content.
Using security software doesn’t cut it. It’s important to teach our kids internet safety rules at a young age, especially as they get more involved on social media sites and create social media accounts across platforms like Twitter and Instagram.
It’s important to talk to your kids on a regular basis about what they’re doing online and who they’re interacting with. The more they know why they are not supposed to share certain information, the better.
Do you have kids? If so, what measures are you taking to protect them online? Drop a comment and let me know! And as always, thank you for reading.
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