As parents, some of us may have decided not to expose our children to digital media and all other forms of technology until a certain age when they are first born.

Black father and son using tablet at table

Online Safety Tips for Kids

Parents might want to protect their children and curb their screen time for many reasons, whether it’s to prevent them from being dependent on their screens or to prevent internet safety issues from occurring.

Unfortunately, we’re not always there to prevent them from being on their screens, and given the current state of the world, it’s unlikely that we can keep to that promise of keeping them away from technology till a certain age. 

A study done by the nonprofit research organization, Common Sense Media, found that screen use of children and tweens between the ages of eight and 12 has increased by 17 percent from 2019 to 2021. The number of children using social media, too, has risen sharply, partly due to the pandemic.

It’s always tricky to talk about internet safety with children, especially when all you want to do as parents is to keep them safe on social media but want to give them the freedom to explore so that they can learn.

Here are some things you can do to help start a conversation with your children about internet safety and impart some necessary information and skills to them.

Start by understanding the basics of internet safety

Before educating your children on internet safety, you must know the proper steps to take yourself. Take a moment to read up on the various internet safety threats that are occurring worldwide and what to do when faced with these dangers. For example, you’ll want to teach your children about basic internet threats, phishing, and dangers that might lurk on social media, like malicious individuals who might target or take advantage of them.

There are various excellent online resources you could use to help you grasp internet safety concepts better. They include this extensive list by GCF Global.

Be open and honest with them about recent issues

Some parents might prefer not to bring up examples of recent issues because they’re concerned that it might affect their children, and while this is perfectly acceptable, some parents might prefer to show examples.

As a starting point, you could highlight some things you’ve seen in the news about internet safety and issues affecting children and tweens. Ask your children what they think or feel when they read these things and ask them how they’d handle a situation like this differently.

Monitor their usage

For some parents, this might be a contentious issue as this basically infringes on their child’s right to privacy. However, in this case, monitoring your child’s internet usage is necessary, especially when they’re just getting the hang of it.

When monitoring your child on social media or any other internet platform, take a look at who their followers and who they’re following are. Then, you’ll want to scan anything they’ve posted and see if they’ve received any inappropriate comments or messages. Next, ensure that their privacy settings have not been tampered with.

Take them through internet safety features they might not know about

Instead of just telling your children how to protect themselves online, show them certain internet safety features that they might not even know about too much.

For example, if your kids are on Instagram, show them some of the privacy features and settings, and let them know that they can hide certain words, limit who can view their Stories, and restrict accounts from interacting with them.

Ultimately, remind your children that they always have to come to you if they’ve received a comment or have seen something online that they’re confused or concerned about.

Be a good role model for your kids

If you have your kids on social media, ensure you’re setting a shining example of what to do on the platform. As children learn best by watching and imitating others—in this case, their parents—it’s essential that you follow any rules you’ve set for them. Whether it’s demonstrating good online behaviors or limiting the use of social media while at the dinner table, you will need to show good behavior because your kids will follow suit.

As children grow and gain more experience in being online savvy, parents have a part to play in ensuring that their exposure to digital screens and content doesn’t impact them negatively.

Educating children early on about the dangers of the internet will equip them with lifelong skills that will help them and remind them that they always have a safe space when they come to you.