A Guide to Educating Your Kids About Online Safety
Instant information has never been so readily available to us. At the click of a button, you can learn how to change a flat tire, check your credit score, or pick a lock.
Improvements in technology—and access to that technology—have forever changed how we interact with the world around us. But because the internet has become so widely available, that also means it’s publicly available to your children, which is why we created a guide for parents on all things internet security, child safety, and internet best practices.
Start From Square One
Talk To Your Kids
Before your child types their first Google search, speak with them about online safety. Speak about privacy risks that can come from accessing the internet and identify the types of threats they should be aware of.
Here are some helpful tips to go over when talking to your child about internet safety:
- Discuss the importance of strong and private passwords.
- Remind your child not to share their passwords with anyone outside of the family, and encourage them to be vigilant about signing out of accounts when accessing sites on public or shared computers.
- Reiterate the importance of never posting private information like their full name, birthday, address, school, age, or location online.
- Discuss appropriate commenting behavior (both on their end and others).
- Encourage them to engage in respectful discussions and to report any malicious activity or comments.
- Go over the difference between kid-friendly content and adult content, as well as sites kids are allowed and not allowed to visit.
As you’re speaking with your child, it can be helpful to use age-appropriate language so that they’ll understand the importance of online safety better. To further protect your kids, you may want to employ a parental control or filter to block certain content from being visible on your computer (more on that later).
Warn Them of Bullies and Online Predators
Since bullies and predators remain anonymous and hide behind pseudonyms, bullying and harassment have become more and more commonplace too.
Teach your child the warning signs of online bullying and online predators, and help them understand where harassment is most prevalent: chat rooms, instant messaging, web pages, gaming centers, and emails.
Here are some of the dangers you can protect your child from.
- Unwanted sexual solicitation
- Pressure to post explicit or sexual content
- Threats of any kind to them or their family
- Derogatory or racist language
If your child experiences any of the following, have them tell you immediately before they respond. You must make it clear that by telling you they won’t get in any trouble. Children will often keep information from their parents either because they’re afraid of repercussions or because they’re embarrassed.
Practice What You Preach
It’s no secret that kids learn most from their parents. To raise a generation of savvy internet users, parents need to set a good example for their children—because how you interact with technology sets the tone for how your children will behave online.
For instance, putting devices away at the dinner table and limiting your technology use sets a precedent for how often children should interact with their devices as well.
Know the Best Tools
Parental controls and filters are available on all major gaming consoles, computers, and smartphones. In addition to built-in parental controls, there are many free applications you can download to help you manage, track, or filter which sites and information your children interact with online. Here are some well-known and trusted parental control apps and software.
AT&T Smart ControlsSM
Free to AT&T Internet customers, AT&T Smart Controls lets you create individual profiles for each family member and set time limits for Internet use. Certain services—email, message boards, and instant messengers—can be blocked or limited for some users.
- Create individual profiles for each family member
- View the online activity of your child and other users
- Manage settings from any web-enabled device
- Set an online timer to limit user time
- Get alerts if parental controls are tampered with
Parental Controls from Google
Google Play Parental Controls can be turned on or off to restrict what content can be purchased or downloaded. Filters for Apps, Games, Movies, and TV shows can be set to only allow content of a certain maturity level to be seen.
It should be noted that Parental Controls will not block explicit content that is shared through a direct link, which is why it is important to know what your child is doing online and who they are communicating with.
A comprehensive content filter, Net Nanny is highly regarded by industry experts as a top tool for Internet protection across all your household devices. Your family can purchase a subscription to Net Nanny to set up website filters, monitor social media sites, set time limits on Internet usage, block profanity and pornography, and more.
Best of all, Net Nanny settings can be controlled remotely with cloud hosted admin to adjust parental controls and permissions in real-time.
Parental controls are intended to protect children using the Internet, but only 11% of parental control apps¹ rely on the child to monitor and regulate their own behavior.
ReThink is an app developed by teenager Trisha Prabhu to stop cyberbullying. According to research done with ReThink, teens change their mind about posting an offensive message online 93 percent of the time². The basic function of ReThink is to force users to stop and think about the impact of their words to self-regulate and change harmful behavior.
Our lives have changed in remarkable ways thanks to the accessibility of technology. But with increased reward comes increased risk, as well as the need for honest and educated discussions around Internet privacy and safety. However you decide to broach the subject of internet safety with your family, we hope this article helps.
For more online safety tips, check out these related articles:
Internet Safety Guide—Online Shopping Safety
Internet Safety Guide—Staying Safe on Social Media