With today’s ever-changing world, we know that it can be difficult to keep up with safety online. We also know that it’s more important than ever to try.
But kids can’t do it alone. Remember, it’s our job as adults to keep kids safe. By working together, having open discussions, and validating experiences and emotions, we can build safer spaces online for everyone.
Kids often rely on the internet to access online spaces for education, online gaming, and social media.
We encourage caregivers to be aware of the importance of online safety to protect kids from:
- Sexual harassment and abuse
- Identity theft, scams, and phishing attempts
- Exposure to inappropriate content
The following guidelines are for parents and caregivers to use while kids learn, communicate, and play online.
Open communication and Adult supervision are the foundations of online safety:
- Create family rules and online guidelines together and discuss how they protect everyone’s personal well-being and information.
- Spend time together online to teach kids appropriate online behavior and communication expectations.
- Monitor time spent on computers, smart phones, tablets, and gaming consoles. Keep computers in common areas of the home.
- Encourage kids to come to you or another trusted adult about any message, image, or webpage that was uncomfortable, weird, or unusual
Promote healthy online interactions with others:
- Discuss what cyberbullying looks like and what types of communication are acceptable and unacceptable to send and receive.
- Avoid responding to a threatening message by blocking or “unfriending” the other user.
- Discuss the risks of chatting with strangers and avoid “friending” anyone they don’t know.
- Avoid meeting in-person without a caregiver’s approval and supervision.
Protect personal information:
- Avoid posting or sharing personal information (address, phone number, school, or location) with strangers privately or in public posts.
- Use a screen name for identification only and don’t share passwords with anyone besides one’s parents, legal guardians, or caregivers.
- Make social media accounts private so strangers can’t view personal information.
- Keep hardware and software updated on digital devices and consider adding device malware protection.
Ensure access to age-appropriate content:
- Set up parental controls on devices and search engines, block inappropriate websites, and bookmark their favorite websites for easy access.
- Show youth how to identify which websites are safe to access by following age restrictions and entering safe search terms in search engines.
- Explain how inappropriate content can come from many sources like emails, direct messages, inappropriate websites, and pop-up ads.
- Avoid clicking on links or pop-up ads, opening attachments, accepting gifts, or downloading any files without a caregiver’s permission first.
Responding to harmful online behavior:
- Take kids seriously if they report feeling uncomfortable after receiving an online message or viewing inappropriate content.
- Let them know it’s not their fault and that you’re glad they came to you because you know how hard it can be to discuss things that make us uncomfortable.
- Save screenshots, block the other user, and change the child’s online credentials (screen names, usernames, emails, and passwords) so the other user can’t locate them again.
- Contact the website’s administrators and law enforcement to report the other user’s harmful behavior or posted inappropriate content directed at an underage user.
Some of the best ways to create safe spaces online is to discuss boundaries and consent. Find information and interactive videos on these topics on the Safe Secure Kids website.
Be Safer Online! (netsmartzkids.org)
"Your Photo Fate" Discussion Guide (missingkids.org)
Be Your Kid's Safety Net - Thorn for Parents
A Safer Family. A Safer World – Harborview Abuse & Trauma Center (washington.edu)
Edwards, R. (2021, November 4). Internet safety guide for kids. Safewise. https://www.safewise.com/resources/internet-safety-kids/
Pennsylvania Coalition Against Rape. (n.d.). Online safety for children and teenagers. https://pcar.org/online-safety-children-and-teenagers