By TMoM Team Member Suzy Fielders

In today’s digital world, there is really no way to avoid your child browsing the internet, using a smart phone or tablet, or accessing online apps on technology like Firesticks. The internet is a vast cyber world that is full of potential – good and bad. While it’s great for research and shopping, it is always bad in the sense it’s home to cyber bullies, online predators, and information that might not be age-appropriate.

Where do we, as parents, draw that line though between protecting their safety and allowing them their independence and privacy?

It’s easy as parents to get caught up in the age old not wanting to infringe on their kid’s privacy. But, the sad fact is there are too many online predators and cyber bullies out there to allow kids online without at least some restrictions and rules.

Below we’ve compiled some online safety tips and information to help parents navigate this tricky digital world.

Online Safety Tips and Information for Kids & Parents

Establish Online Rules

First, set ground rules before they get social media profiles or browse the internet. Be sure those rules are clear and known.

One rule should be that you as the parent will know their passwords and will randomly check the account. This is where many parents start wondering if this is an invasion of their kid’s privacy. If you set the expectations ahead of time, then you let them know it is something that will be checked and it’s not sneaking behind their back. Make it clear you not checking this as a way to invade their personal lives but as a way to keep them safe.

When setting rules also really think about the age of your child. For instance, the same rules for an 11 or 12-year-old might not really apply to a 16 or 17-year-old.

Here are a few potential online rules to consider for your child(ren):

  • Set start and end times for online access.
  • Keep phones, computers, and tablets outside of bedrooms at night.
  • Don’t accept friend requests from people they do not know in person.
  • Never post personal information online, such as, phone numbers, home addresses, email addresses, and current physical location.
  • Avoid saying anything you wouldn’t want others to hear or know – because screenshots are a very real thing that get shared often.

Get Offline When Needed

Next, suggest they start a journal – yes actual pen and paper – for extremely personal thoughts to keep their private thoughts in a safe place! This way no one can hack those very personal items. For older children, encourage them to keep passwords and logins in a notebook vs. somewhere on their phone.

Teach Kids About Hackers and Spammers

Personal security is not the only online issue; there are also an abundance of spammers and hackers. Therefore, it’s important to teach your children and teens about these digital terrorists. This is especially important for teens that have bank or credit cards.

For instance, let them know to never open a link or attachment in an email or DM from someone they don’t know. This is one of the top ways of getting virus.

Also, make sure to have a virus checker on all computers in the house (including the child’s). Any computer on the same internet system is open to getting a virus if another computer on that system has one.

Help them understand to set secure passwords. Here are a few tips in creating more secure passwords:

  • Utilize numbers, letters, and special characters
  • Do not use obvious things like birthdates, addresses, and names
  • Never use the same password as a username
  • Do not oversimplify and use something like 1234

Social Media Tips

There are so many social media platforms out there now. If you are unaware of any social media platforms, be sure to thoroughly research it and test it out yourself before allowing your child on it.

Be extremely mindful of sites that supposedly delete posts or messages after sending, such as, SnapChat. The reality is with the online world there is no 100% certainty something is completely deleted. Hackers have been known to have ways to access ‘deleted’ information or people have downloaded or taken a screenshot of something so it does technically still exist.

Some platforms also post more questionable material than others, for example, TikTok. While there are certainly tons of fun videos out there, on the flip side there are also ones you likely wouldn’t want your child seeing.

Posting More Securely

One great thing about Facebook and Instagram is there are ways to set things to private so only friends/followers will see them.  But, it means making sure to set those profiles or information to private.

This means to always check their security settings on any social media platform they use. Unfortunately, social media platforms love to always change where their security settings. If you are stumped in figuring out a security setting, try searching about it on Google.

As to what content they post, again back to that rule of never posting personal information or data. Additionally, it is worth emphasizing multiple times to your child… once something is posted online it’s out there forever. This seems like a simple and obvious thing but I’ve noticed so many people seem to overlook it. Online outlets shouldn’t be used for venting, that’s what friends and family are for (in-person or on the phone)! You never know who is reading and watching online.

Online Security Resources

Below are a few apps and resources to help your family with online security as well.

The internet is such a powerful tool, both good and bad. It’s our job as parents to help their kids understand and respect this. We hope this blog helps on that front! Let us know your online security tips for kids and families in the comments.

Want to see more blogs like this and also get notifications on local events and happenings? Subscribe to our free weekly newsletters here.