Internet Safety for Kids
Internet Safety for Kids Explained
Online safety has been an issue almost as long as there has been an internet. And as we continue to become more and more integrated with online tech, it is extremely easy for kids to get lost in the shuffle. Then we get the stories: harassment, kidnapping, cyberbullying, stolen information, and so on.
It is easy to just get scared, or angry, or try to shield your kid from online activity altogether. But if you follow some of these basic tips, you can avoid the major issues of online threats without locking your kid in a closet.
Protect All Accounts… Yours, and Your Child’s
We all think we take care of our account security. But guess what…
- You probably use an identical password across at least two sites.
- You probably keep easy passwords attached to critical accounts.
- You probably don’t have two-factor authentication activated wherever you can.
This is a problem, because these accounts are ripe for hacking when you least expect it. What’s more, if you don’t teach your kids, through example and through information, how to make themselves secure online, then they are going to fall in the same traps. That means phishing, hacking, and data theft.
So, learn the dos and don’ts of online security. And teach your kids how to keep their information private.
Keep Computers in a Public Space
If your child uses a computer at all, they should do so in public. This discourages them from accessing questionable websites on their own, and it allows you the opportunity to check in on what they are doing at any given moment.
Basic news, but you’d be surprised how many parents don’t do this. Or, even if they do, they are too busy to pay attention. This is bad news, because kids online don’t know all the problems that can come up if they share the wrong information or talk to the wrong person.
Make sure that your kid doesn’t have a private computer that they can lock, and that any computer time they have online is in a public space, within eyesight.
This approach becomes a little more difficult if you give your kid a smartphone or tablet. The easy solution to this is to not give them such things until they are older. If you must, however, then make sure they are not online in their own room on any device.
Use Parental Control and Security Software
Another no-brainer, and maybe not necessarily a sure-fire solution, but something that should be done regardless. Many computer health and antivirus software packages come equipped with ways to blacklist sites or entire domains from your home internet. You can also set controls that will only allow access to sites (or to the Internet as a whole) at certain times of the day.
In either case, you should have this software in place, ideally with no way for your kid to find a way around it. Control access to your computers and your internet, on your terms.
Monitor Computer Use
You don’t have to be visibly watching your kind online in order to monitor activity. But doing this requires you to get a little more familiar with your computer. There are a couple of approaches you can take here:
- The manual approach means that you just get on the computer and check things like browser histories, cached images, and downloads. This is a good thing to do regardless, but kinds with a little knowledge can clear these out relatively easily.
- The software approach is to install tracking software on your computer, like a network monitor or a keylogger, to track your kid’s online activity. This can be much more effective if you are trying to catch your kid in the act, but it is also a kind of ethical gray-area, depending on how you look at it (especially if you don’t tell them you are checking in on them).
In either case, you can tell your kid that you have this software in place to discourage certain activities, or you can put them in place in hopes of catching them in the act. The former seems more helpful than the latter, and none of this helps, ultimately, if you don’t have access to the computer (as in, if they have their own mobile device).
Maintain an Open Line of Communication About Online Activity
The above three items are relatively straightforward, mechanical approaches to the issue of web safety. But, as with anything, kids can find a way around many of the solutions we put into place. And truth be told, we can’t hover over their shoulders forever.
So, you always need to have an open line of communication between you and your child regarding their online activity:
- You should always go over the rules of the Internet in your home. Even better, you should have an open conversation about these rules and why they are in place, and how they keep your child safe.
- You should always talk with your child about their browsing: who they talk to, what sites they visit, and so one. This isn’t an interrogation: be authentically interested in what they are doing.
- Following #2, create an atmosphere in which your child feels comfortable talking with you about what they do online. If your kid runs into something that worries, scares, or confuses them, they are more likely to share with you if they feel they can do so in safety.
Always Be Open About the Dangers of Online Activity
Finally, talk with your kids about the dangers of certain online activities. This isn’t a fear-mongering tactic, but it gets to the heart of many young adult experiences online.
We often think about online safety as avoiding data or identity theft or avoid having your account information stolen. These are significant threats, sure, but today’s generation faces a whole new level of anxiety online. Predators, toxic online communities, and cyberbullies are becoming more regular in places that they weren’t before. Seemingly innocuous sites like Facebook and Instagram can quickly become open communication channels where your kid can be harassed, bullied, or stalked.
Share these concerns with your kid in an open manner. Don’t speak in life-or-death terms, or try to scare them, because kids think they are invincible until something happens. Talk to them with respect and understanding and teach them about the ways in which they can avoid these issues. And, when in doubt, remember: always keep the lines of communication open.
Keep Your Kids Safe
Honestly, with a combination of clear rules, monitoring, and open communication, you can have a good handle on your kid’s activities online. Nothing is 100%, however, so your best bet is to create an environment of trust and understanding, so that if something unsafe happens online, your kid knows that they can avoid it. Or, if nothing else, they can come to you.