Helping a Child with Internet Safety
Technology allows children and teens to enroll in online learning. But it can also be used by criminals to harm children or steal personal information.
The more time your child or teen spends online, the more risks they will encounter. Talk with your child about Internet safety.
Online Safety Tips for Parents
- Use the Internet yourself. This will help you make informed decisions when questions arise. Learn about the technology, content, and other users your child or teen is likely to encounter.
- Visit the websites your child or teen visits. Find out if they have inappropriate content or ask users for private information. To see which websites your child recently visited, look at the history on their Internet browser. Pay attention to the sites that your child and his friends talk about. Also note the sites that are mentioned on TV and in other media your child interacts with.
- Let your children or teens know that they can come to you with any questions or comments about things they see and read online. Children might stumble upon inappropriate sites even if they are not trying to. Don't overreact. Your child should know he can share this information with you without being punished. Otherwise, they may be secretive about their online use. This is especially true for older children. Ultimatums and bans may backfire. There are many places other than home where children can get online.
- Children and teens may be bullied online or via e-mail. If your child receives an abusive, threatening, or inappropriate message from another student, inform the school or your child's teacher. Be aware of the dangers of this form of bullying and ways to help your child.
- Put your child's or teen's computer in an open area of your home. Position the screen so it can be seen by others. Using the computer in the living room, family room, or kitchen will encourage your child to practice good judgment. It will also decrease the temptation to explore inappropriate content.
- Look for signs that your child or teen might be using the Internet inappropriately. Does your child hide or change web pages when you walk into a room? Are people you do not know calling to talk to your child, such as someone he or she might have "met" online? When you are around, does your child indicate to people online that you are in the room or he is not free to talk? Your child might have legitimate reasons for wanting privacy, but this can also be a sign that your child is engaging in behavior that he knows is risky.
- Let your child or teen know that you want to protect them, not punish them. Communicate and work with your child so that you both understand appropriate and potentially dangerous activities on the Internet.
- Practice age-appropriate supervision. A child age 2 to 7 needs close supervision when using the Internet. Save web pages as bookmarks to make it easier for your child to find. Limit e-mail and text messaging to a list of friends and family you have approved. Use filters to limit accidental access to unsuitable material.
With children ages 8-11, emphasize safe behavior and be actively involved in their online activities. Investigate discussion boards, online clubs, or other communities that your child wants to join. Consider using filtering software to block inappropriate websites.
Teens ages 12-18 use the Internet as an essential tool for their schoolwork and projects. Continue to discuss Internet safety with them, even as you are less able to supervise their access. Remind your teens to be thoughtful about the photos and information they post online, or send via e-mail and text message. Help your teen to understand the ethics and laws related to privacy, software piracy, hacking, and other issues.