Our world is hyper-connected and kids today are what we’d call “digital natives.” That means they’ve only ever known a world filled with internet, social media, and smartphones. That’s why these internet safety tips for kids are super important, and parents should be vigilant in their safety on the internet.
It’s incredible to think that just 20 years ago Google had just been founded, Facebook and YouTube didn’t even exist, and the smartphones we can’t live without today were still just dumb old brick phones!
Safety on the internet for kids
Technology has brought some wondrous opportunities and incredible advances into our world. But there’s also a growing understanding of its consequences, especially when it comes to our little ones. Consider the following statistics:
- Kids between the ages of 5-8 spend over 3 hrs/day on a screen (Common Sense Media)
- 53% of kids in the US today have a smartphone by the age of 11 (Common Sense Media)
- 82% of parents say they are concerned about their kids’ screen time (Parents Together Action)
- Reports of child online exploitation have risen dramatically since the start of the coronavirus pandemic (WSJ)
- Numerous recent studies suggest strong correlation between social media usage, screen time, and increased risk of depression in adolescents (ABC News)
There’s a growing body of research emerging and more parents, educators, health experts and activists are starting to raise the alarm. As powerful a force as technology can be to connect, empower, and educate, it can also have powerfully negative consequences.
7 internet safety tips for kids
More than ever, parents are grappling with the realities of our digital age and how to safely raise kids in a screen saturated world. What do parents need to know about internet safety today? What are the best ways to help families develop good web habits? We’ve compiled a list of the most important internet safety tips for kids to help families stay safe online.
- Limit the amount of time spent in front of screens
For any parents who have walked this road before, you know setting “computer time” limits can be a battle. But having set time limits for screens is critical to creating consistency for kids while allowing you to set boundaries. It’s also key to pair screen time limits with other priorities so kids understand what’s most important – and to show flexibility when those priorities change. If your child is using the computer to access quality content and learning materials, it may be appropriate to extend the time they use the computer. Additionally, setting limits for internet could vary based on the age of the child and their computer knowledge. These kinds of approaches can help kids learn to see screens as tools and that time with them is earned through maturity.
- Create “screen zones” that are common areas
Location matters when it comes to creating healthy web habits. Place computers used by children in a visible location in a common room. This helps to create a sense of accountability and makes it easier for parents to stay engaged. Experts increasingly recommend that you avoid having a computer in your child’s room. Unmonitored screen time at early ages creates a host of potential issues, such as increased likelihood of exposure to explicit content, not to mention the potential for overuse. If you do allow them to use a computer in their room, consider getting a laptop so that they can easily change locations and spend a limited amount of time by themselves. Whatever you do, look for ways to have a “training wheels” approach to computers so kids can learn in steps.
- Make online time family time
Browsing the web as a family both for educational and entertainment purposes is important for online child safety. As screens have become a constant in our world, it’s more important than ever for parents to model what good screen time and digital activity looks like. Parents that spend intentional time on the internet with their kids make it easier to both teach and monitor to help build confidence for the whole family. Your children will also approach you with problems that need solving online when you show interest and engagement, which makes online activity an opportunity for interaction, not isolation. For example, consider making time to help with homework online as a way of bonding between you and your child while ensuring they are safe online.
- Prohibit giving out personal information online
Children tend to trust easily – it’s one of the beauties of childhood! But it also makes online interaction more dangerous. Kids may not understand the consequences of providing personal information to strangers online. Be clear with your child that providing any personal information like home address, school location, or phone number to strangers online is not allowed and dangerous. And most of all, encourage them to talk with you if they’re ever unsure if something is ok.
- Have a teaching approach when it comes to online dangers
The fact is that the online world has never been more dangerous. Parents realize now more than ever that some online time is essential to learning and even some social development. At the same time, children also need to understand the dangers they may face online and the steps they can take to avoid becoming a victim. Take time and have a discussion with your kids about internet dangers and best practices. The most important thing of all is simply to be engaged with your kids in an ongoing conversation about safety and how to be wise online.
- Start early with a “cyber safety belt” approach
When it comes to instilling good web safety as a family norm, starting early is key. Just think about, we use an on-ramp approach to most things: training wheels for bikes, safety seats for kids in cars, and drivers ed for teens. And yet, when it comes to technology, far too often parents are simply handing an unlimited and powerful tool to their kids with little to no training. Adopting an early, safe on-ramp to technology can be a great way for parents to teach kids healthy technology habits in steps. For example, kids smart watches are a growing trend as parents look for simple devices with calling, messaging and GPS features, but without all the other connection elements that create concern.
- Invest in the right online parental controls
As much as parents can set rules or engage in healthy conversations, it’s still important for parents to have built-in guard rails when it comes to ensuring web safety for the family. Parents need to have some control over internet use in the home and exercise it when necessary for the safety of their children. This is a critical part of helping guide and train your kids about what safety in the digital world means. Tools that allow parents to block some websites, filter information, and monitor their child’s use when online are important to consider for any household. Talk to your internet provider to learn about the parental control tools available and learn how to use them effectively.
Online safety for kids is ultimately a team effort between parents and kids, with the best practices involving consistent messages and rules, the right tools, clear communication, and lots of engagement. Families that actively engage in fostering a family culture of online safety will be better equipped to enjoy the wonders our digital world can offer and help give parents the peace of mind they need.
I hope that these internet safety tips for kids will hep to aide your family during online activities.