The internet can be a place of learning and wonder for kids. They can research educational topics to interact with their friends and play online games. However, as we all know from, I’m sure, experience, there are many risks associated with using the internet.
From inappropriate content to online predators and cyberbullying, it can be a scary place to allow our kids access to a wide range of possibilities. We don’t want to limit our kids’ ability to learn more and enjoy time with friends when being in person isn’t possible for various reasons, but we need to prepare for anything.
I have put together a list of internet safety tips for parents that will allow kids to get the most out of using the internet while staying safe.
Internet Safety Guidelines for Parents
1. Ensure Websites are Secure
You may think that most online websites, or websites aimed at kids, are safe because – well – it’s for kids. You’d be surprised at how many websites trick parents into thinking it’s kid-friendly just by saying it’s secure or that the content is age-appropriate.
The best way to tell if a website is secure is to check the website address. When your kids see a game, hear of a page or a new fun site to try, check if there is an “s” in the web address. Every website starts with “HTTP,” but a secure website will have “HTTPS.” This means that the site’s admins take extra measures to ensure everyone who accesses their page will remain safe and their information is unobtainable from others.
Take Call Emmy for instance – our website and apps (on App Store and Google Play) are highly secure. When we collect personal information, we make sure to protect it and not get exposed in any data breach.
2. Set Up Parental Controls
I’m sure most parents already do (I do this myself), but this is a big one. The best way to protect our kids online is to set up parental controls on any and every website.
Whether they’re playing on a P.C., tablet, or iPad, first check to see if you’re able to set up certain boundaries that your kids can access. For example, I entered their birthdays on my kids’ Amazon Fire tablet, so only age-appropriate games will pop up. If they see a new game they want, I have to go to the app store, enter my password pin and password, and then download it.
Depending on the kind of technology your kids play on, there are many tutorials online you can look up to help you set parental controls. Research the best ways to provide these and even receive notifications of your kids’ activities.
3. Stay in a Common Area
While I was growing up, our family computer was always in the T.V. room, and the screen was facing the couch. This was so my parents could see what I was doing the entire time and check to see if I was on appropriate websites.
In today’s day and age, we don’t see many people with only the big computers that take up a whole desk. It’s primarily laptops and handheld tablets. Even while your kids are on these devices, have them sit on the couch next to you, at the kitchen table, or anywhere the family congregates. Doing this will allow you to check what your kids are doing and ensure their internet safety.
4. Set Boundaries with the Chat Features
I see many games that have the ability for our kids to communicate with each other through chat. One game, in particular, is Roblox. I have yet to meet a parent who hasn’t heard of this game! At one point, games like this were under scrutiny because the chat feature couldn’t be disabled or hidden. This allowed predators to take advantage and try to get personal information from kids.
Let your kids know that they can not use the chat feature or only talk to a selected few. This could be friends from school who you know, cousins, family members, etc., that you have approved. Depending on the type of game or site they’re on, you could set up parental controls. However, most games just come with this feature, which can be hard to control. Inform your kids of the boundaries and that you will be checking. My kids know that if I see them talking to anyone I disapproved, they’ll not be able to use that game again.
5. Talk About Sharing Information
Talking with your kids about the kind of information they share online is a big one for internet safety tips for parents. Your kids may not understand what is okay to share and what isn’t. This is why it’s imperative to explain to your kids that not every person on the internet is their friend.
It may feel uncomfortable, but let them know there are people out there who only want something from them that they’re not supposed to have. This could be our credit card information, address, pictures, or anything else personal.
6. Bookmark Your Kids’ Favorite Sites
Bookmark them for easy access if there are certain websites your kids love or ones you know are safe based on the first step mentioned in this article.
This way, your kids aren’t scrolling through different websites trying to find their favorite and end up in the wrong place. Even as an adult, I sometimes click on the wrong websites or forget what a particular site is called, so we can only imagine how difficult it can be for kids to navigate. It will not only be easy for your kids to find their go-to, kid-friendly, parent-approved websites, but you’ll also have peace of mind knowing they aren’t ending up on an inappropriate page.
7. If it Seems Sketchy, it Probably is
If your kids come to you because they heard this new game for the computer just came out, and you can download it, be sure to do some research first. When you look at the game or website that claims it is kid-friendly but seems a little off, it most likely is.
Cybercriminals or hackers will try to disguise their true intentions by creating an app or website that seems innocent. If it looks suspicious or comes from a website or area of the web you don’t know; your best bet is not to download it. Your kids may be upset but let them know you’ll look more into it because something seems off, and you don’t want personal information stolen accidentally.
8. Choose Strong Passwords
When it comes to creating a password for any site, there’s always the recommendation to choose strong passwords for security purposes. It may seem tempting to use the same one repeatedly because it’s easiest to remember. I do this myself because it can be hard to remember a million different passwords!
There is still the login and password information required for kids’ games, apps, or websites. Choosing a strong password means capital letters, numbers, special symbols, and making them long. You want to make it hard for others to guess. If you’re like me, it’ll be hard to remember them. I keep a notebook that is strictly for passwords for everything we use. It’s also recommended to change them up every three months to provide better security.
9. Teach Your Kids to Say No
Even in the virtual world, other kids may ask inappropriate questions or interact with their “characters” in the wrong way. I know we all talk with our kids about the importance of saying “no” to anything that makes them uncomfortable when around other people, but the internet is no different.
With more games, websites, and apps being more interactive, inappropriate behavior grows. What happens in the virtual world can make them think it’s okay to do in the real world. The boundaries you set with your kids regarding everyday activities should also be explained and applied while on the internet. Tell them to say no or leave if something makes them uncomfortable in a game or when interacting with others.
10. Install or Update Antivirus Software
Even if your kids use a tablet or iPad, make sure you choose a rigorous antivirus product or update your latest software for optimal use. This will protect all family devices, especially those your kids use.
Even with parental controls, kids will intentionally or accidentally find a way to go on untrusted websites. Having reliable antivirus software will help protect private information from cybercriminals. If your kids do end up on a website not approved by you, whether on purpose or by accident, you’ll be able to see it not only by checking the history but by the antivirus software detecting something.
Closing Thoughts on Internet Safety Tips for Parents
Kids today are born right into technology’s prime. There’s something on the internet for everyone, regardless of age. However, as parents, we have to be more on top of their internet use and explain the world wide web’s dangers.
These internet safety guidelines for parents are meant to help your kids have fun while exploring the internet and stay safe. You can even explain to your kids how we have to be safe and watch what we do as adults. Keeping an open flow of communication will help your kids understand the rules and boundaries and know to come to you if anything seems wrong.
We do everything we can to ensure our kids’ safety, and the internet is a place where we should be cautious. Don’t have it come off as a punishment when acting on these tips, but instead explain how this will help them have even more fun with their friends and family while they’re on the internet. After all, kids just want to have fun!
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