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Parents Guide to Protecting Kids Online

March 09, 2017
By Maria Korolov, Business & Technology reporter

If you’re like me, and you use your kids as free tech support whenever you need to configure your wireless router or your TV to play funny cat videos, then it’s probably tempting to let the kids take care of their own online security, as well. That could be a big mistake.

While your kids might be experts at the technology, they’re not experts at evaluating risk.

You already know that, without guidance, children can be easily manipulated into smoking, drinking, speeding, bullying, and, of course, jumping off of cliffs because all their friends are doing it.

Mistakes can cause a lot of damage — everything from expensive ransomware infections, identity theft, loss of friendships to even putting your child’s life at risk.

Just as in the off-line world, you need to provide guidance, set boundaries, and, depending on your child’s age and maturity level, implement some safeguards. You also need to be aware of where the threats are coming from.

10 Things You Can Do Right Away

​1.​ Make YouTube safe for your kids

​2.​ Help your kids set the privacy controls on their social media accounts

3.​ Install anti-virus on your computers and mobile devices

4.​ Set up separate accounts for your kids on your computers

5.​ Set up separate accounts for your kids on your mobile devices

​6.​ Secure your gaming systems

​7.​ Consider using kid-safe browsers and search engines

​8.​ Lock in apps for youngest children

​9.​ Consider using an app that limits the time your child spends online

​10.​ Make sure your kids are only using safe chat rooms

Teach, Educate and Talk with Your Children

11.​ Teach your children not to respond to messages from strangers

12.​ Educate your children about the risks of “sexting”

​13.​ Warn your kids about file sharing

​14.​ Warn your kids about online polls and surveys

15.​ Warn your kids about getting too close to strangers

16.​ Help your children deal with cyberbullying

​17.​ Set a good example

18.​ Set rules about what your kids can share online

19.​ Add your kids as “Friend”

20.​ Set limits on how much time your children can spend online

21.​ Additional resources

Internet Matters: Resources for parents looking to keep children safe online, with age-specific how-to guides, free apps, and device safety checklists.

Family Online Safety Institute: Parenting guides and news and reports about online safety issues.

Safe, Smart & Social: Social media training guides and safety tips for parents and educators.

Read this article in its entirety and get specific action items:

Keeping Kids Safe Online

February 17, 2016

If your student is surfing the Web, you need to be paddling right alongside him — or at least observing him carefully from the shore.

While the Internet offers goodies galore (educational materials, fun games, and connections with people all over the world), it can also pose risks to your child's physical safety and emotional well-being. 

Communicate with your child. Discuss what they are doing online and why. Set rules, and talk about them. Then keep talking, since your child can earn more rights and responsibilities as they grow. If they feel comfortable with these conversations, they will be more likely to let you know when they run into an online bully or stumbles upon inappropriate content. While keeping kids safe, be a role model with your own Internet habits, since your child is likely to emulate your behavior.

Safety Standards:

  1. Limit usage. Permit your child have free online time for, say, 30 minutes right after school to instant-message friends, play games, or visit social networking sites, but make it a rule that family time starts with dinner. After that the computer is used for homework and it's an IM-free zone.
  2. Keep kids in sight. Have the computer centrally located. Your child is less likely to browse questionable content if she knows Mom or Dad (or her brother or sister) might walk by at any second. This helps you monitor time spent online, chosen activities, and resultant behavior.
  3. Do your homework. Check his browser history to know where your child goes online, and check the sites regularly. Use security tools and privacy features — whether offered by your browser or Internet service provider, or purchased separately — for extra protection. GetNetWise has more information about these safety features.

Parents also need to understand what kids love to do online — and what risks go along with the rewards. 

Communicating and social networking: Online communication consists primarily of email, instant messaging (IMs), chat rooms, and journals or Web logs (blogs). On networking sites such as Facebook, kids can create Web profiles, and then invite others to view and become online buddies. Your child may use these media to share gossip, exchange photos, make weekend plans, find out about missed assignments, connect over common interests, and express opinions.

What to know: One out of every five kids gets sexual solicitations online. Strangers, predators, and cyber-bullies all target children, and their work is simplified when screen names reveal age, gender, or hometown. If posts aren't marked as private, personal information can be displayed to an unrestricted audience of readers.

What to do:  

  1. Know who your child talks to online. Review her buddy list: does she really know everyone, or are some buddies "friends of friends"? Have her remove anyone whom she hasn't met in person.

  2. Tell him not to exchange personal information like a phone number, address, best friend's name, or picture. No party invitations, revealing details, or meeting in person — ever.

Web surfing: Kids can explore new interests, check to see if a library book is available, or find a recipe for the class party in valuable resources, such as online encyclopedias, newspapers, and periodicals.

What to know: Surfing the Web without restrictions can mean encountering pop-up ads, viruses, erroneous information, and inappropriate content. The ease of cutting and pasting means that plagiarism is a real concern. And time flies online! Kids can click from one site to another until bedtime (or beyond), if you let them.

What to do: 

  1. Set a code of conduct and time limits. Keeping kids safe means setting guidelines about suitable language, content, and behavior. While it's important to direct your child to suitable websites, it's even more valuable to help her recognize the redeeming qualities of those sites, so she can surf safely on her own.

  2. Critique content. Help your child think critically about the content he reads and sees. Encourage him to check facts with multiple sources before including them in a school report. Try to distinguish between user-generated content and reputable institutions.

For other ideas on keeping kids safe online, visit

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