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September 03, 2019

5 Ways to Keep Kids Safe on the Internet

In just over a decade, the internet has integrated into every human experience in the developed world. We have access to endless knowledge, tools that make our lives easier, and communications capabilities that help us stay connected whether we are in the next room or on the other side of the globe. With the touch of a button or a simple voice command, we can find out the square footage of the Taj Mahal, make a restaurant reservation, and talk to Grandma while she vacations in Belize—often all at the same time. We have access to these functions on our computers, game consoles, phones, televisions, and even watches.

While this easy access opens up a world we never thought possible, it also makes us vulnerable to types of crimes we never imagined. Cybercrime and Cyberbullying are real issues that permeate the internet. Our personal and financial information can be stolen by downloaded malicious content; we can be tricked into giving that same information away to someone—or some bot—pretending to represent a company we trust; we can even be tricked into developing feelings for someone who pretends to be somebody else.

We do not let out children wander alone in the streets, and we need to employ the same sort of sensibility when they spend time surfing the web. Here are five ways you can help your youngsters enjoy the benefits of this ever-expansive technology while protecting them from the harm that can be caused by inevitable predatory behavior:

1. Communicate

Stay ahead of cybercriminals by arming yourself with knowledge. Talk with your children to help them become as savvy to the dangers of the internet as they are to the fun. Make sure your children know they should never give out their name, address, phone number, or school over the internet. Younger children should always get permission before sharing any photos. Older children should be warned about sexual predators and understand the dangers of sharing nude or explicit photos online. The FBI offers a useful Parent’s Guide to Internet Safety and fun educational games to teach kids about internet safety for grades three through eight.

2. Supervise

This one is a lot easier to do with very young children. For most, it is a matter of making sure they only have access to the internet when you are around. Place the computer in a family room or other high-traffic areas so you can keep an eye on what they are doing. For older children, this becomes complicated, as they obtain more personal technology like cell phones and smartwatches. Talk to teachers, other caregivers, and friends’ parents to make sure you are all on the same page about what is considered appropriate internet behavior. Many smart devices offer family linking where you can monitor your child’s usage. These functions vary in ease of use and the amount of information to which you have access.

3. Set Limits

Setting limits on the amount of time spent online, which apps can be used, and which games can be played, encourages more unstructured playtime and physical activity. It also gives older kids an opportunity to take a breather and create some distance between themselves and what is happening on social media. Enforcing limits can be a challenge with older kids, but internet service and data providers often have parental controls built-in so you can limit access right through the provider. This is also a subject to be approached with teachers, caregivers, and friends’ parents to make sure they understand your boundaries for your child.

4. Consider Software

While software for purchase can be a bit complicated to use, there is a growing market for comprehensive parental controls. Apps and programs can help you to set limits and monitor all your devices remotely, so you have peace of mind whether you are with your child or not. Certain types of software allow you to block websites or other apps, limit time spent on specific sites, and view your child’s browsing and messaging history. advises talking to your kids about the software you will be running to make sure they understand the boundaries you set and why they are in place.

5. Know the Red Flags

Regardless of everything you do to keep kids stay safe online, children are still at risk of being victims of cybercrime or cyberbullying. Kids can find ways around parental controls, and cyber criminals develop newer, more invasive methods every day. It is important to be vigilant of the potential signs that someone is targeting them. If your child turns the monitor off quickly when you enter the room, becomes withdrawn, spends an excessive amount of time online—especially at night, or if you find pornography on your child’s device, it is important to get to the bottom of what is going on right away. The FBI provides information about who to contact if you believe your child has received child pornography or been solicited by an adult who knows they are under 18.

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