Children are starting to use the internet at younger ages. There are many benefits to exposing your child to what the online world has to offer; the internet has unlocked possibilities and avenues that were previously unimaginable. The internet can be used as an instrument of learning, socialization, and entertainment. However, like any tool, it needs to be used in a safe manner. Today's internet safety tips for kids will help create ground rules for internet usage in your home.
Discover internet safety tips for kids
We'll cover everything from cyberbullying to streaming videos safely to protecting your child's eyesight. These internet safety tips can be adopted by users of all ages from elementary school, to middle school, high school, and even adulthood. Your child can also learn more about cybersecurity with Create & Learn's live online internet safety class.
1. Never give away personal information
Whether it is in a username or at someone’s request, make sure to keep your private information private. Websites will sometimes ask your child to input personal details like their name, age, or address; before filling out any forms make sure your child knows to ask you to double check the safety of the website. Hackers can use the smallest details to steal passwords, accounts, or even identities.
2. The internet is forever
Before posting a photo or sending a message via the internet, ask yourself if you are okay with everyone in the world seeing it. The current era of screenshots, cookies, and cloud storage means your online actions are written in stone. Your child needs to know that clearing their history or deleting a post does not necessarily make their actions disappear. Make sure that your child is aware that all their internet activity has consequences.
3. Don’t trust strangers
Anonymity on the internet can be a dangerous thing. Although websites try their best to ensure their users are genuine and trustworthy, it is impossible to confirm that all users are joining a site in good faith. Your child should always treat people they meet on the internet as strangers, regardless of how long they have chatted or how well they think they know them. It is important to talk to your child about who they are interacting with online and the nature of those interactions.
4. Make passwords long and complex
According to Nord Pass the three most common passwords in the United States are 123456, password, and 12345. It is vital to teach your kids to create long and complex passwords to protect their accounts. It can be helpful to think of them as “passphrases” instead of passwords. One helpful hint can be to take the first letter from a phrase and mix in symbols and numbers. For example, “2007: Steve Jobs sold iPhone 1!” becomes “2007:SJsiP1!”. This will create a mnemonic device to remember the password and make it much more difficult for hackers to break in.
5. Listen to your security software and install updates right away
Not listening to your security software warning you of danger would be like staying in your house while the fire alarm is screeching. While there is no way to stay 100% safe on the internet, installing security software is the best option. Your child should understand that any warning from your security software needs to be taken seriously. Always make sure that your applications and operating system are up to date because many of the updates include important patches that fix vulnerabilities.
6. Report bad activity to an adult and don’t respond
Set up the expectation with your child that if someone behaves inappropriately to them on the internet, then they should report it to an adult immediately. As an adult, you can block the user and report them to the website or game. No matter how angry, annoyed, or offended they might be in response to something someone says or posts, not responding is always the best thing to do. Giving attention to inappropriate material gives it the sunlight and attention that it craves.
7. Treat others as you want to be treated
The golden rule applies to real life and the internet. The web is already full of negativity, so try to be the light in the darkness. Instead of contributing to trolling, cyberbullying, or other harmful behavior, try to motivate your child to use the internet to support, teach, and inspire. The inability to see how posts and messages affect those who receive them can make people blind to the consequences of their actions, but there are always human beings on the other side of the computer. It is important to monitor your child’s online activity and quickly correct any signs of cyberbullying or mistreatment of others.
8. Don’t buy things without parents’ permission
We live in a world of saved credit card information and mobile banking, which makes it almost too easy to buy things online without a second thought. However, make sure the proper safeguards are in place to prevent your child from buying products online. The easiest step you can take is to make sure that your credit card information does not autofill. Also, there are many parental controls on computing and gaming devices that setup password requirements for purchases. You should know which of your child’s games and devices incorporate micro-transactions and downloadable content (DLC). Make sure that you child is aware that they must ask permission from you before making an online purchase.
9. Don’t download or explore without parents’ permission
Establish clear rules with your child that they are not allowed to download or explore without your permission. You should verify what applications and websites your child is using and limit them to only age-appropriate ones. There are many precautions that you can take to make sure your child is not exposed to inappropriate content. Most security software and operating systems come with parental controls where you can lock websites that have inappropriate material. Kiddle is a fantastic search engine powered by Google that provides kid-friendly results. Many streaming websites like Netflix and YouTube also have child filters and other parental locks. It can be difficult to keep track of everything your child does online but have an open dialogue about their interests on the internet. Learning more about what your child loves doing online can bring you closer together and teach you a lot about their passions and goals.
10. Take a break!
Humans were not designed to sit in front of the computer for extended periods of time. Prolonged computer use can be taxing on your wrists, back, butt, eyes, and brain. It is especially key for children to take intermittent computer breaks for their developing bodies and minds. In order to rest your eyes, the 20-20-20 rule is often recommended; it dictates that every 20 minutes you look at a target 20 feet or more away for 20 seconds. It is also suggested that you stand up from your desk for at least 5 to 10 minutes every hour. Check in with your child and make sure they are taking breaks, are in a comfortable and ergonomic position, and have the screen at an appropriate distance from their eyes (16-30 inches).
Explore internet safety facts
These five internet safety facts may surprise you!
- Compared to adults, children under the age of 18 are 51 times more likely to have their identities stolen.
- Two-thirds of people use no more than two passwords for all their online accounts.
- The average daily time spent using the internet is about 7 hours. 4) There are 5 billion internet users around the world today and that numbers grows by about ½ million each day.
- The FTC reports that more than 95,000 people were victims of fraud initiated on social media platforms and their losses totaled about $770 million in 2021 alone.
Use internet safety tips for kids
The absolute best way to keep your child safe on the internet is to teach them about coding and technology. The more they know about how computers and the internet operate, the more they can protect themselves from dangerous online situations. Check out Create & Learn’s Cybersecurity course for kids to learn about the exciting world of modern computing and outsmarting hackers! Up next, learn about the history of computers.
Written by Matt Kalnay, a Create & Learn instructor. After graduating from UC Davis with a B.S. in Biology, he joined Peace Corps Indonesia as an English as a Foreign Language Instructor. Following his return to the United States, he decided to pursue his passion in the field of Software Engineering and Web Development.