15 tips to keep your children safe online
The digital world can be a scary place for kids, and stories about cyberbullying and predators are omnipresent in the media. But there’s no need to feel helpless. There are some things you can do now—regardless of your child’s age—to keep them safe in online spaces. Here are 15.
Do your research
First, help yourself help your kids by doing research on how to protect them. Dig into data provided by the Family Online Safety Institute or follow Facebook pages like Parenting in a Tech World. There are also regional and national laws that protect kids younger than 13 online—read them. The better armed you are with the latest tech happenings and advice, the more comfortable you’ll be chatting all things digital with your children.
Before you set limits around your child’s tech time, sit down with them and explain how you expect them to use their smartphone and behave online. Discuss which websites they can visit and apps they can download. Chat through the reasons why and have them acknowledge the rules you’ve created.
Chat with your kids about privacy
Make sure your child understands what privacy means when it comes to the online world. Remind them to never share a password—and coach them on how to create ones no one can figure out. Walk through the privacy settings of specific apps. Share as little data about your kiddo as possible when signing them up for something. The more secure your data (and theirs), the better.
Talk about what not to share
Remind your child that people can find out a lot about them from something as simple as a school logo on their shirt and walk through why keeping things like their address, phone number, and full name confidential is essential. They’ll be safer—and less likely to be scammed—if someone has a harder time figuring out who they are online.
Discuss why digital doesn’t die
Kids don’t often think about the consequences of sending an image or text to their friends beyond the act of pressing “send,” but to stay safe online they need to understand that digital things can last forever. Not only that, images and messages can be forwarded or shared, between friends and beyond. Talk to them about thinking through sending things before they actually send them.
Help them think through connections
People use technology in varying ways; some people can be trusted and others cannot. Before your little one begins gaming or chatting, talk to them about how they should treat connections in the digital world. You should also discuss grooming and what that might look and feel like.
Break down bullying
Some kids might not understand that what they’re seeing online can be construed as bullying. Sit down and talk to your child about what online bullying looks like, its consequences, and also the importance of never taking part in hurting someone’s feelings in the digital world.
Help them delete and hide content
Accidents happen and often kids will share something online they regret. That’s OK. Instead of getting upset with your child, walk them through the process of deleting or hiding something within an app’s specific parameters (say, for example, TikTok). You should also teach them how to deactivate their accounts.
Talk about how to report something
There’s the saying “if you see something, say something,” and this applies to inappropriate behaviour and content online, including bullying and abuse. Kids should know how and where to report these kinds of things and who to turn to if they find themselves on the receiving end of inappropriate commentary.
Lock down their tech toys
Parents have more control over what their kiddos see and do online than they may think. Smartphones offer ways to track and limit technology use, while many apps allow parents to restrict certain parts of their programs to those who are of age.
Know your child’s passwords
For many parents, a good starting place with technology is to ensure you have access to whatever apps your kids are using so you can monitor their behaviour and coach or course-correct as necessary. This will also ensure you can restrict their usage to certain “pre-approved” programs.
Cover their cameras
Some viruses allow people to access a person’s webcam without them knowing, so make sure the webcam of your child’s laptop and tablet are always covered when they’re not using the device.
Talk about sexually explicit content
Though it’s a heavy topic, it’s critical you discuss with your child the consequences of engaging in sexually explicit behaviour online, regardless of their age and at an age-appropriate level. Research shows children can be exposed to provocative images starting as young as age 12. Talk to them about what to do if they stumble upon—or are sent—this kind of content.
Help them identify phishing and scams
Phishing is when someone tries to trick another person into giving them information—and that’s only one of many types of internet fraud and scams. Teach your child about this and explain when they may encounter such situations. Remind them to never click on random links and tell them to avoid signing into weird-looking websites.
Track their activity
When the time comes for your child to have access to their smartphone without you knowing their password, you can still monitor how they use their technology through tracking apps like mSpy and MamaBear. There are even phones you can buy that prohibit their ability to download apps like TikTok