Teaching kids how to be safe on the internet is crucial for any family with internet access. As a parent, you should know the best practices for internet safety so you can demonstrate how to surf the web responsibly and put internet safety rules in place to keep your kids accountable. With tips for internet safety, you can help your children form good habits on the internet that they can carry with them into adulthood. The internet is a great tool for educational resources, learning opportunities, and age-appropriate entertainment. Teaching kids how to be safe on the internet will help them be good stewards of this tool and to use it in a God-honoring way.
What is internet safety?
Internet safety (otherwise known as cyber safety or online safety) means being aware of the dangers of the internet, understanding how to mitigate common risks of internet usage, and protecting both the device and the person accessing the internet. Good internet safety habits for your children and family involve protecting your devices and keeping private information secure, but more importantly, protecting the physical and emotional well-being of your children.
What are the dangers of the internet and social media?
There are many different forms of malicious content of the internet. The first step in practicing cyber safety in your home is knowing the dangers your or your kids may encounter.
Potential internet dangers:
- Identify theft
- Online scams
- Violent content
- Online predators
In addition to the general dangers of the internet, some are more specific to social media use. While social media has many positives, like keeping up with long distance friends and family, creative expression, and digital literacy, you should be wary of poor time management, isolation, anxiety, depression, low self-esteem, and poor sleep in addition to the dangers listed above.
15 ways to stay safe online
Here are 15 basic internet safety tips for parents, families, students, and kids.
- Check your privacy settings on all your devices and any online accounts that you have.
- Don’t download anything from a suspicious or untrustworthy website or without your parents’ permission.
- Use a secure internet connection or a vpn.
- Browse carefully. Don’t visit any suspicious websites or websites that use click bait titles.
- Do not talk to strangers online.
- Share any private chats from strangers with your parents.
- Never share any personal information. Personal information includes your date of birth, street address, phone number, or social security number. Many parents are also careful about putting their kid’s full name and email address online.
- Don’t send or post any pictures of yourself in public with a traceable location.
- Keep your screens in public places.
- Beware of phishing. Phishing is when fraudulent businesses pretend to be legitimate business through email or messaging to get your sensitive information. Do not click on unfamiliar URLs in an email or in a message, especially if you were not expecting the URL.
- Use unique passwords for different accounts. A password management system, like Bitwarden or LastPass, can keep track of all your passwords. These password management systems can also generate strong passwords for you.
- Turn on two factor authentication, which adds an extra layer of security to your account. You set up your email address, text messaging, phone call, or a third party app like Google Authenticator as an additional security for your accounts.
- Turn on SafeSearch in your Google search setting and enable YouTube restricted mode. You can also install a parental control software, or you can use Open DNS to block inappropriate websites.
- Don’t click on unexpected pop-ups. You can install a pop-up blocker on your browser to prevent them.
- Limit the amount of time you and your kids spend looking at a screen each day.
Internet safety for kids
Your child’s online safety has become increasingly at risk with the number of devices kids daily use. Have frequent conversations with your children about the dangers of the internet. You don’t want them to be caught by surprise if they come across something inappropriate or dangerous. Communicate your expectations to your children. They should know what websites and apps you do and do not want them to use. You should set high standards for your own internet habits and usage as well.
Be sure to build a relationship of trust with your kids. You can explain that whatever parental restrictions you set up are for their own safety and protection. There are many dangers on the internet, including online predators who want to hurt others and specifically target children.
Trust between parent or guardian and children can be broken if a child breaks the internet usage rules or bypasses safeguards. In this case, you may need to start additional conversations with your children or add more boundaries. Sometimes, temporarily blocking access to the internet may be appropriate.
Children may feel too restricted or left out if their friends don’t have the same rules. But every family is different, and you, as the parent, decide what is best for your family. Encourage your kids that you do want what’s best for them. But one helpful strategy is honesty about internet dangers, especially with teens. Don’t just vaguely inform them that you want them to be safe. Discuss manipulation, exploitation, phishing, malware, cyberbullying, and pornography. Be specific about where surfing the internet can lead and why they should be on guard.
How to block inappropriate content
You can block inappropriate content with parental control software. These kinds of software block inappropriate content from you and your kids. You can read our review of the 5 best internet filters for your family. You can also set up parental controls on any device that your child uses. These controls allow you to restrict access to specific apps and limit the hours your child can use a device. Let your children know that they can always come and talk to you about what they’ve seen or experienced on the internet. Reassure them that you love them no matter what.
If your children will be using devices outside your home under the supervision of another adult, connect with each adult to determine what internet safety standards they have in place. Let the parents know you would not like your child to be online without them present or at all, if they are unwilling to respect your standards. If you don’t know that you can trust the parents or your child, you may not want to allow your child you spend time in their home overnight without supervision.
How to block inappropriate images on Google
You can block inappropriate images on Google by turning on SafeSearch. This feature blocks explicit content from appearing in the search results, including images, videos, and websites. SafeSearch is available for computers, android, and iOS devices.
To enable SafeSearch on a computer:
- Go to Search Settings.
- Under “SafeSearch filters,” check the box next to enable SafeSearch.
- Select Save at the bottom of the page.
You can also use Safe Search Kids, which is a search engine designed to filter content and allow for parental controls, as an additional safeguard while your children are googling.
YouTube safety tips
According to Qustidio’s annual report on children’s digital habits, YouTube is the most popular video streaming platform. According to this same report, kids spent an average of 64–68 minutes per day on YouTube. Video is a powerful tool to influence your children’s hearts and minds. It’s important that you understand YouTube’s platform and have a plan for keeping your kids safe when watching videos.
Parental control software is often not able to censor content on YouTube. Some filters that use URLs to block inappropriate content do not catch objectionable videos on YouTube. CovenantEyes does monitor YouTube because it uses screenshots to look for inappropriate images.
Here are some tips for keeping your kids safe on YouTube:
- If you’re child is under 13 they should be using YouTube Kids. YouTube does not allow children under 13 to browse YouTube videos.
- Turn on restricted mode. Restricted mode blocks potentially questionable content.
- Co-watch videos with your kids. Since you can’t always be right next to them when they’re watching a video, make sure the screen is in a public place.
- If your child or teen has a mobile phone or tablet, you may want to disable or block the YouTube app so they cannot watch YouTube on their own.
- If your child has an account and wants to upload videos, make sure all their information is private and review their videos to make sure they don’t share any personal information.
- For a creative child who is interested in making or editing videos, you may want to make the settings for the video private. Making the video private will allow you to share the video with friends and family but anyone who doesn’t have a direct link to the video won’t be able to find it.
How to protect your child from cyberbullying
As children spend more time online, there are more opportunities for them to experience cyberbullying. Cyberbullying only happens if children are on social media platforms, websites, or apps that allow for interaction and communication between users. There are some steps you can take to protect your kids from cyberbullying and help them handle it if they experience it.
- Explain what cyberbullying is. Give them a definition of cyberbullying, so they have words to express their experience if it happens to them.
- Establish open communication with your child. Don’t just say that you want them to come to you or assume that they would tell you if they experienced cyberbullying. Take the initiative to open communication with them.
- Know what apps your child is using, and make sure you have access to their accounts.
- Give them tactics to respond when it happens. Tell them how to respond when they experience bullying.
- Don’t respond directly to the bully.
- Block and/or report bullies who use inappropriate words, threats, or otherwise endanger users.
- Inform an adult about the situation.