Internet Safety: How to Keep Teens and Kids Safe Online in 2019 (and Beyond)

The internet poses a major challenge for parents.

Today’s generation of kids is the first to be growing up with smartphones and social media as a part of their everyday life. Access to such a wide range of information is a extremely powerful tool, but it comes with a set or risks and dangers.

Kids are becoming exposed to the internet at a very young age, and it’s up to parents to guide them towards safe practices as they grow up and enter their teenage years. Parents need to set a good example of what safe internet habits look like and they must remain diligent in monitoring how their children interact online.

In order to keep children safe online, parents must create a clear set of internet rules that are enforced inside and outside of the house. Consider the topics below when setting your rules to ensure your kids avoid danger on the internet.

Boundaries for Computers and Devices

Internet addiction is a very real force in today’s society, especially among younger demographics. Parents should set a precedence early in their children’s lives about what amount of screen time is healthy.

Some simple rules can include no phones at the dinner table or no internet devices in the bedroom. Certain internet service providers even offer features that will let you disable a home’s local network with a single click from a mobile device.

Kids will likely want to have their own tablet, smartphone, and laptop, but it may actually benefit them to have a single family computer that must be shared among all members. That way, they learn to limit how much time they spend online and are always using the internet with adults nearby.

Parents also need to set strict guidelines about how technology should be used in the home. It’s best to treat the internet as a utility first, and a source of entertainment second.

Communicate with your children about what types of websites and smartphone apps are appropriate for them to use, and what types of files should be downloaded. Be up front with them about the dangers that exist online and how to watch out for them.

Personal Information Security

One of the main risks when it comes to internet security is identity theft or loss of other private information.

Younger people are typically very trusting, and as a result they may be more susceptible to online scams and phishing attempts.

For example, your child may click on a link in an email that claims to have awarded them a cash prize.

But then it redirects them to a suspicious website asking for personal information. As a parent, you must urge your children to come to you and communicate their concerns any time they encounter this type of situation.

Children and teens also need to learn the importance of password security. Just like adults, they should use complex passwords that contain letters, numbers, and special characters. Passwords need to be changed on a regular basis as well.

Before a child creates an account on any website, a parent should approve the activity and instruct them what type of personal information is appropriate to share.

Be weary of any sites that prompt children to share full names, addresses, or phone numbers.

Social Media and Bullying

Most social networks, like Facebook and Twitter, require that a child be at least 13 years of age before he or she can register for an account. Even still, that’s very young for someone to have open access to billions of other people.

When talking to your children about safety on social media, make sure that the discussion covers all forms of communication. You want to teach your child how to avoid potential predators online, but also how to interact politely with their own community of friends.

Cyberbullying is a prevalent force among all age groups, and children and teens need to be held responsible for how they treat others online.

Online Shopping

With so many stores and retailers available online, your children are bound to ask for access to credit card information or shopping accounts where payment data is already stored.

Avoid letting your child make any online purchases until they have their own bank account set up. Even then, it’s best to have all purchases routed to a parent for approval until proper budgeting and spending habits can be developed.

As a parent, you should regularly check your credit card bills and online banking for suspicious purchases or charges. If you detect something unusual, contact your financial institution right away to gather more information and report the issue.

Mobile operating systems like Apple’s iOS will require a fingerprint check or password entry before a purchase can be finalized.

Parental Controls and Filtering

As software and devices continue to mature, they are constantly adding more features to help parents protect their children online. Parents should still closely monitor their children’s activity, but using parental controls and filtering can add another critical level of support.

Microsoft’s Internet Explorer has the most robust browser options for parental controls. Parents can block websites based on their content type or by entering URLs directly.

Google Chrome and Mozilla Firefox have fewer built-in options, but you can find third-party utilities that will allow you to filter what kind of websites your children see or even set time limits on how long a browser can stay open.

When it comes to mobile devices, both iOS and Android offer a range of security features for parents. You can choose which applications a child can launch and then control that setting with a special passcode.

In addition, the systems can block explicit content from music, video, and podcast services. Be open with your children about the rules you are putting into place and why they are important to their own safety.