How to Practice Internet Safety for Kids

internet safety for kids

Keeping our kids safe online and in real life is the number one priority for parents all over the world.

In some ways, the internet helps us protect our kids out in the real world. With it, parents can instantly communicate with their children when a threat is present, track the whereabouts of their children at all times, and online information can aid in dealing with emergency situations, such as treating an ailment or injury.

It’s funny then, that something so helpful can be so dangerous at the same time.

The world wide web is always evolving. Considering what can be found on the surface web, it is terrifying to think about what lurks in the shadowy spaces of the deep and dark webs. Not only can the internet be a scary place, but our kids are so well trained in adapting to it that as parents we may not even know what to look for when risks present themselves. To help you stay in the know, these are some computer security tips for kids that will help make sure your kids are safe online.

The Essentials of Internet Safety for Kids

Stay Informed

Even if tech and the full offerings of the internet aren’t things that you’re particularly interested in, chances are high that your mini-me has at least some interest. After all, internet messaging and social apps are the number one mode of communication for social groups in Generation Z. Kids use the constant connection of apps like Facebook, Snapchat, Instagram to keep in touch with friends. And they share their lives in status updates, photos, and snaps in the thousands of other apps available at the touch of a button. As a parent, it’s up to you to know what products your child is using, how they operate, what information they are sharing, and who can access that information.

Research and Set Child Safety Functions for Your Home Devices

Don’t you remember being a kid? Your little mind raced to discover any and all new things you could. Obviously, hearing that “curiosity killed the cat” didn’t stop you. This instinct is even more pronounced in kids today because they don’t want to be the last one to know about anything—how embarrassing. According to Psychology Today, a new phenomenon known as the Fear of Missing Out (FOMO) is growing throughout the population as a whole. However, it seems to be a trait Gen Z-ers have naturally. Most likely, this is because they’ve been raised in a world where they have instant access to everything. You can often recognize a person with FOMO because they avoid making concrete plans simply in hopes of something better coming along. With all the apps available to let your kids know what is happening and when, FOMO is becoming a serious issue.

Understanding this new reality can ensure that you’re at least on the same page as your kids when it comes to internet safety, if not even a few steps ahead. Do your best to set any restrictions you can in order to keep your little one from wandering onto a site that could traumatize them or worse, put them in danger. This danger can mean anything from emotional vulnerability in the form of deceptive ads, personal identity theft due to hackers, or even physical danger in the form of strangers posing as friends.

Using a virtual private network (VPN) is the first step in securing your online activities. VPNs protect your information from being easily accessed by hackers so setting one up is a passive yet effective way to protect your kids’ information. You can learn how to set up a VPN here.  Some companies offer products made specifically for kids that have adjustable parental controls built in, but all web browsers have settings which you can change in order to protect your child. Make sure you’re always revisiting these controls and adjusting them as needed.

Set a Good Example

Just like when they were learning to speak, your kids learn from you. If you practice sound internet safety—never sharing personal information, updating your passwords regularly, logging out of devices when finished, etc.—Junior will follow your lead. It’s much easier to instill a desired behavior in your child if they’ve always seen you follow the same rules. Make your child a part of the conversation when it comes to your internet habits. Let them know what you’re sharing and why, and listen to them if they have questions or concerns regarding your content. Establishing an open and transparent dialogue ensures that it won’t seem like an invasion when you need to talk to them about their internet habits.

If your internet security hygiene is not squeaky clean, check out our internet security tips.

Limit Internet Time

This may seem like an impossible task, especially if your kids have their own smartphone or computer, but, trust us, it’s possible!

It all goes back to setting a good example. If you don’t want your kids’ whole life to be spent online, disconnect yours sometimes. Make sure phones and tablets are put away for family time like dinner or reunions, charge your phone in the kitchen—not by your bed—and disable push notifications that will ultimately draw you (and your child) back online. There are apps and products available that limit the amount of time spent on certain websites. These will help your child learn that the world is going on around them, not just on their screen. This lifehack offers benefits two-fold. First, you will enjoy more quality time with your child. Second, it will keep them from becoming too comfortable in the digital world and letting their guard down.

Practice Makes Perfect

Role playing different potential scenarios with your child will help prepare them to make the safe choice online. Talk with them about how they would react if they were to receive a suspicious email or a friend request from a stranger online. Make sure to ask them if they’ve ever been in a situation that made them uneasy, and talk through how they handled it. Do they think they could have done something better? Was there a safer choice? Keeping the lines of communication open is key to making sure your child actually feels safe online and is making the best choices.

Don’t Forget the Desktop

These days it feels as if all our time is spent on handheld devices, but forgetting to protect ourselves and our kids on desktops is just as dangerous as not following safety precautions on smaller devices. A lot of the steps to keep you safe on a handheld device, including using a VPN, updating passwords often, and not clicking on suspicious links, are the same for desktops. But there are some awesome software options out there specifically geared to monitor activity on desktops and keep the whole family safe. One of these products is called Clean Router Review, which replaces your internet router and applies protections to all devices connected to the network.  

The Dangers of Poor Internet Safety for Kids

Outdated software is one of the most dangerous threats to everyone’s online security, not just your kids’. You want to do all you can to ensure your family’s safety, so always make sure to keep your software up to date. If you’re running programs that don’t have the latest updates, they aren’t protected against the newest threats. Another risk to your online security is the false idea that you’re immune. It’s natural to assume that we are exempt from the dangers of the world, especially for the younger generations. The feeling that makes you comfortable driving a bit too fast and a bit too riskily is the same phenomenon that makes you feel impervious to online risks, even though security breaches are at an all time high.

For an in-depth look at some of the most common online threats, make sure to check out our articles on phishing, Malware, and Email Safety.

Unfortunately, for every good habit we practice online, there is someone posing a new danger. For ourselves, and especially for our children, we must stay committed to safe practices and never let our guard down.  

What internet safety practices do you have in place to protect your children? What are your biggest obstacles to practicing better internet safety?