Updated July 31, 2019

Internet Safety for Kids

Read more about Internet

The internet is a great for children to learn, express themselves and make friends. But it can expose them to graphic content, predators or dangerous links. Here's how to teach your kids about internet safety.

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What is Internet Safety?

Internet (or online) safety is making sure your children are informed about the potential dangers of being online. As parents, it's important for you to educate your children on what they should and shouldn't do online.

Knowing how to behave on the internet will minimize the risks and dangers to you and your child.

What Kind of Dangers can Your Child be Exposed to?

Knowing the major threats on the internet will help your children navigate it better. Here are the most common online threats for children:

  1. Violent/Pornographic Content
    With so much content online, even the best filters might not always work. If a child is exposed to violent or pornographic content, it can be an upsetting or traumatizing experience. It may even influence their behavior.

  2. Identity Theft
    Children are a prime target for identity theft due to their lack of experience. They tend to post a lot of personal information online. Identity thieves can easily steal this personal information for criminal use.

    For example, they can use a minor's Social Security number to apply for loans, get credit accounts, or apply for government benefits.

  3. Hidden Fees
    Gaming is one of the most common activities online, and children are particularly susceptible. According to one study, 24% of children played games for more than seven hours a week.

    "Freemium" games refer to a game that is free to play but requires payment for full access. Unmonitored, these games could cost thousands of dollars of in-app purchases.

  4. Online Predators
    One of the biggest threats to children are online predators. These are adults posing as a minor online. They spend a lot of time with a child, "grooming" them and building trust.

    Typically, these predators will try to sexually exploit the child, or worse still, arrange for a meet.

  5. Cyberbullying
    Because it allows for anonymity, the internet is a ripe place for cyberbullying. Whether its games or online forums, internet users often say hurtful or derogatory things. These can be upsetting for anyone on the receiving end, especially kids.

  6. Malware
    Hackers are becoming increasingly sophisticated. They can modify a legitimate app and upload this malicious version to an online marketplace.

    Once downloaded, this app infects the mobile phone. An infected phone can leak sensitive information about its user, which could harm you or your child.

What can I Do to Protect My Child?

Below are 22 safety tips to protect your children when they use the internet.

  1. Make safety fun
    Online games teach children how to use the internet safely. For example, Google Interland is a free browser game that covers things like phishing, internet harassment, passwords, and other internet safety tips.

    Similar games include Common Sense Media—Digital Compass, and Nova Labs Cybersecurity Lab.

    If your child has fun learning about online safety, the lesson is far more likely to stick.

  2. Keep your social profiles clean
    As parents, it's important to set a good example for your child. Always keep a clean profile on social media and make sure that your profile doesn't contain any inappropriate photos or language. Setting good behavior on social media will teach your child to behave appropriately, too.

  3. Teach them to only use secure websites
    One of the first lessons your child should learn is how to tell the difference between secure and insecure websites. Sites that have HTTPS in the URL are secure sites. This means that the information between the site and the user is encrypted. You can exchange information safely without someone spying on you.

    Sites that are just HTTP, on the other hand, aren't encrypted. A hacker could intercept the information you submit and steal it.

    If you're browsing a website without submitting personal information, HTTP websites are fine. However, if you're submitting personal information like a credit card number or home address, always make sure it's HTTPS.

  4. Tell them to be careful of what they download
    Children are easy targets for malware. It doesn't take much for a cybercriminal to trick a minor into downloading malicious apps or programs.

    Explain to your child that they should never download suspicious files or attachments. It's also important that they only download apps from official stores only, like Google Play or App Store.

  5. Protect your computer
    It's not enough to just tell your child to be careful of what they download. Always install a strong antivirus program on your child's computer. You'll also need to make sure it's updated regularly.

    Having good anti-malware adds another line of defense. It protects you and your children from a data breach.

  6. Teach your kids to keep personal information private
    Teach your children to never share personal information—ever. Things like your home address, name, and phone number should always be kept private. It's unlikely that websites for children will ask for this anyway.

    If there are websites that require this information, make sure that the child submits it under your supervision.

  7. Don't trust public networks
    Teenagers love to hang out with friends in public places. This includes shopping malls, coffee shops, and restaurants. Almost all these places offer free Wi-Fi service.

    However, public networks are also dangerous, since they lack proper protection. Public networks usually don't need a password when connecting, which means the network is unencrypted.

    Unencrypted network traffic is clearly visible to everyone in range. This presents a good opportunity for hackers to steal personal data.

    Teach your children to never submit personal information while on a public network. Alternatively, they can also use a VPN service, which secures their traffic.

  8. Protect your child's identity
    If your child has a Social Security number, their identity can be stolen too. In fact, criminals love this—children's Social Security numbers have a clean slate. It's easy for thieves to use them to open credit accounts or obtain government benefits.

  9. Don't meet online friends offline
    It's easy to make friends on the internet. Your children may form a close bond with their online friends. They may even plan to meet up.

    Explain to your children that this is a bad idea. Their online friends may not be who they say they are. Meeting in real life is dangerous because their "friends" could be kidnappers or pedophiles.

    Always keep track of who your children's online friends are. Even if you think it's safe for them to meet, it should always be under your strict supervision.

  10. Guide them on making strong passwords
    Passwords can sometimes be the only thing standing between your child and a hacker. It's important that your child understands the importance of having a strong password.

    A strong password is at least 12 characters long and includes numbers and/or special characters. It shouldn't be a simple combination either (e.g., 123456 or abcdef).

    Also, teach your child not to use the same passwords across multiples sites. This can protect your child in case one of their accounts becomes compromised.

  11. Don't share passwords
    A strong password is useless if it's being shared! Tell your children that it's not okay to share their passwords with other people, even their friends.

    A leaked password can spread and put your child at risk. This is especially true if your child uses the same password across different websites.

  12. Establish rules about using the internet
    Having clear rules about internet usage can help make it safer for your child. Make rules about how long they're allowed to be online. Also have rules about what they can and can't do when you're not around.

    For example, it's a good idea to tell them to not fill out any forms asking for personal information without first checking with you.

  13. Use parental controls
    If you aren't around a lot and your child has free access to the internet, make sure to set up parental controls. Parental controls are programs that control your child's internet usage.

    For example, it could restrict certain websites and services, or cut off the internet connection after a certain time. It could also allow you to view your children's online activities.

  14. Keep your computer in a high-traffic area
    Another great practice for online safety is to put your family computer in a high-traffic area in your home. That way, you develop a culture of transparency and honesty when using the internet.

    This goes both ways—your child can see what you do online, and they can see what you do too. It encourages good online behavior from both parents and children.

  15. Block in-app purchases and disable one-click payment options on your devices
    Many children play games online. The bad news is that many of these games charge a fee to play or to access parts of the game.

    If your children are using your account for these apps, they can easily rack up thousands of dollars in purchases.

    Always be sure to block in-app purchases and disable one-click payment on your devices or any that your child might be using.

  16. Teach your children about social media safety
    Teach your child to only share things they don't mind everyone seeing. Photos and/or videos that they're uncomfortable with should not be put up at all. This includes photos and videos of them taken by their friends.

    It's also important to teach them how to use the privacy settings on their social media accounts. Facebook, for example, allows you to set what your friends can see on your profile. Other social media sites, like Twitter and Instagram, have their own privacy settings too.

  17. Monitor what your child posts online
    With social media, anything you post remains online forever. Teach your children this and ask them to be careful with what they post online.

    As a parent, you should also monitor what your child posts online. Make sure that they don't share anything inappropriate.

    It may be hard to do this, as children don't like sharing their social media profiles with parents. But be open and explain why you're doing this. Once they know your intentions, children tend to be more cooperative.

  18. Talk to your children about online bullying and harassment
    According to recent surveys, some 59% of U.S. teens have experienced some form of bullying or harassment online. In extreme cases, this can even lead to depression and suicide.

    It's important for your child to understand that although hurtful, online comments can be managed. Many online platforms allow you to block negative comments or messages from other people. Some even allow you to report negative behavior for further action.

    However, the best reaction is to block and/or ignore mean messages or comments. Cutting off all communication is almost always the safest option.

  19. Respect the golden rule
    Similarly, you should also teach your child to not post hurtful or derogatory comments online. Because the internet is anonymous, your child may feel as though his or her actions don't have consequences.

    Make them understand that internet users are real people too, and that everything your child says can have real-life consequences.

  20. Create real-life scenarios
    Sometimes, just telling your children what they should or shouldn't do online isn't enough. It might be a little too vague for your children to understand.

    However, if you create a real-life scenario, it helps your child understand the situation better.

    When teaching your child about online safety, include as many real-life situations or examples as you can. You can even show them short clips to show them what you mean. This can help your child develop better situational awareness online.

  21. Beware of online scams
    This is a problem for adults, but even children are vulnerable to them, too. Common scams include emails claiming that you've won a lot of money but asking for payment to receive your prize.

    There are also sites that sell things for cheap. Once you buy them, you either don't get the product, or it turns out to be different than what was advertised.

    Education is key. Teach your child to have a healthy amount of suspicion online. If something is too good to be true, then it almost always is.

  22. Encourage your children to talk to you if they face a problem
    Having your children to talk to you is still the best precaution you can take to protect your child. Always encourage your children to talk to you if they face a problem online.

    Try not to be angry or react strongly if they made a mistake. This would only encourage them to hide things from you, or to solve the problem on their own instead.

    Knowing what your child is going through is the most effective way to keep them safe. Keep an open dialog with your children about their online activity. If they know they can rely on you, they'll be more open with you as well.

Bottom Line

When it comes to online safety, parents play a huge role. It's your job to teach your children how they can protect themselves from the dangers of the internet.

Make sure you discuss internet safety with your children today. Educating your child on online safety will help them grow and be safe in this digital age.

Write to Khairie A at feedback@creditdonkey.com. Follow us on Twitter and Facebook for our latest posts.

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