Keep Your Kids Safer Online: 5 Tips for Parents
Today, our daily lives increasingly take place in digital spaces. Children need to learn how to navigate the online world safely and responsibly. While the internet is undoubtedly a great place to learn and have fun, there are dangers they need to be aware of, like cyberbullying, predators and scammers.
We’ve put together our top five tips for parents and guardians looking to improve their child’s experience online.
1. Make Privacy a Top Priority
When helping your child set up online profiles and accounts, do not include information like their real name, location, age, or school. Enable all privacy settings so their content is only available to approved friends and family and show them how to block people they do not know. Also, turn off location services, so apps cannot track where they are and potentially share that information with others. It's also a good idea to keep this information off your own profiles.
In addition to discouraging your child from sharing personal identifying information, they must understand there are real-world consequences for what they post online. Encourage them to never post content that endangers or embarrasses themselves or others. If they wouldn't want you, their teachers, law enforcement, or their future employers to see it, they should not post it.
2. Research and Approve Suitable Websites, Apps and Games
Ideally, your child would come to you for permission before visiting or downloading anything new – and it’s important to promote this practice. However, if your child is already using a service or you see an unfamiliar website in their browser history, it’s not too late to do a bit of research to find out if it is an appropriate place for your child.
Here are a few places to start:
- Read reviews of apps in the app store.
- Look at the ESRB ratings for any online games.
- See if the app or website has any age restrictions.
- Preview the service yourself to see what the experience is like.
3. Utilize Security Software and Parental Controls
Install security software on your child’s device and keep it up to date to protect them from viruses, malware and more. Keep the operating system, apps and other software up to date too. Don’t forget to set strong passwords and remind your child that they are not to be shared with anyone other than you.
Go one step further by setting up parental controls. Your options will vary depending on what service or device you have so it will take a bit of research. Start by searching its name and parental controls in your favorite search engine.
4. Know Where Your Money is Going
Your child will undoubtedly come across something online that costs real-world money, whether it’s merchandise, in-game currency, loot boxes, subscriptions, super chats or something else. While it’s important to remind them that they should not spend money without your permission, sometimes that is not enough – they may not even realize they’re spending money at all.
One way to combat this is to never store your card information on your child’s device or accounts. Another is to require a password for all app purchases. Both make it harder for your child to unwittingly make a purchase. If you allow your child to spend money online, see if there is a prepaid gift card that you can load into their account instead. Many services like Apple, Microsoft and Nintendo have this feature.
Regardless, keep an eye on your bank and credit card statements to identify any unauthorized transactions.
5. Show You Care by Staying Involved
As your child gets more involved in the digital world, it’s important to foster a relationship of trust and set expectations. Get the dialogue going. Talk regularly about the online spaces they are interested in. Encourage them to remain positive and civil when they communicate with others online. Make them aware of potential online dangers and tell them they can always come to you if they experience anything that makes them feel uncomfortable or unsafe.
In addition to talking about online safety, spend time together online. Not only can you monitor what they are doing, but you can also model appropriate online behavior for them to emulate.
We hope these tips help you and your child navigate the online world with more peace of mind and vigilance.