In this guide, we’ll talk about children’s internet safety: why you must take it seriously, the threats, and the steps you can take to protect them.
Let’s jump right into it!
Why Should You Take Your Children’s Internet Safety Seriously?
Most parents neglect the internet when thinking about their children’s safety. This is unfortunate since the internet is a very dangerous place. Regardless of age, nobody can truly browse the web without facing risks.
The first step to secure your kids’ digital protection is knowing how easy it is for them to go online. Even if their internet access is limited, they could easily find a way to connect to the web. They can always access public wifi hotspots or connect from a friend’s house without difficulty.
I don’t recommend preventing your children from using the internet. Doing this would only increase curiosity. The best you can do is monitor them to know what they’re doing online.
Most kids use the web exclusively for gaming and social media. But, they can also use it to check out porn sites or read all kinds of malicious content. Everything from drugs to extremist ideologies is on the table.
For this reason, always monitor your kids’ behavior and activities online. If ever you discover anything that’s concerning, do not punish them. Instead, give them proper guidance and lead them through the right path.
What Threats Exist
Many online threats exist. After all, the internet is full of people that commit acts like:
- Identity Theft
- Drug Dealing
- Illegal Surveillance
- Data Collection
There are many other dangers that children can encounter online. Don’t be scared, though. We can help you in this regard. Below are the steps you can take.
How To Protect Your Children Online
There are many ways to protect your kids online. Some are easy, some are difficult. This should not be a problem because, as parents, the most important thing in the world is your kids.
1. Have A Positive Relationship With Your Kids.
For starters, you should maintain a positive relationship and open communication with your kids. This is quite important in a world where many parents don’t talk to their children enough.
Talk to your kids and make an effort to know their problems. Never be too hard on them since they will resent you for it in the future. Also, be a good example for them to follow. Remember that all your actions reflect on your kids. Don’t do anything that you wouldn’t want them to do.
As a parent, you can show your kids how to behave properly online. Refrain from posting things that are nonsense and verify the sources of everything you share. This especially applies to news articles as today’s web is flooded with fake news. It’s full of people that don’t mind spreading misinformation to benefit their own agendas.
Lastly, be mindful of what websites you visit. Avoid reading up on things like drugs or suicide and looking at porn sites. Why? Your children won’t think it’s wrong to browse such content if their own parents do it.
2. Regularly Update Yourself About The Internet.
What’s great is that today’s generation of parents is incredibly tech-savvy. Hence, it isn’t hard for them to find out the latest online trends.
Still, you must strive to be updated with the happenings online. Do not assume that you know everything because the internet is alive and constantly evolving.
There are many “challenges” that kids do, which are actually very dangerous. An example of this is the “Benadryl Challenge” that has been sweeping TikTok. It encourages teens to ingest large amounts of the medication to induce hallucinations.
A teenager that attempted this “challenge” recently died. This is really sad because her demise could’ve been prevented. If her parents knew what she was looking at online, it would have been possible for them to give proper guidance.
Besides “challenges”, there are many other new things online that can negatively influence your kids. Viral videos, memes, and articles are just some of the things out there. As such, you must always stay up-to-date. Doing so is a matter of life and death.
3. Educate Your Children About The Dangers Of The Internet.
It’s not enough to point out if something is bad. You must also explain the reason why in a way that your kids will understand. Make sure to educate and not scold. This strategy is sure to go a long way. Your kids will be more likely to do the same when they themselves become parents.
To not overwhelm, don’t teach your children about all the internet’s dangers at once. Go slowly and tackle subjects when they’re relevant. Only when the time is right do you give a full explanation of the many threats on the web.
4. Online Predators
Online predators are some of the biggest dangers to children on the internet. Don’t bother trying to single them out because they come in all shapes and sizes. Oftentimes, these predators hide in plain sight. Sad to say, many are never caught.
In most cases, online predators talk to their victims for months. They pretend to be their friend and confidant to build their trust. After some time, a request to meet in person is made. After that, unspeakable acts follow.
Some murder their victims when things go out of hand. Some also abduct and turn them into sex slaves. When this happens, it can be years before they get caught. Their victims are often too traumatized to live a normal life.
No gender is safe from predators. Although the perpetrators are mostly men, they target boys and girls at the same rate. The ages of the victims also vary greatly. They may be as young as 5 and as old as 17.
Tell your children to never talk to strangers. You should also prevent them from posting personal information online. Lastly, install your family PC in a common area and set screen time limits.
If ever you establish that your kids are being preyed upon, immediately report it. Avoid taking matters into your own hands no matter how tempting it seems. Instead, gather as much information as you can. Tell everything to the authorities and follow their guidance.
5. Maximize Your Use Of Non-Intrusive Parental Control.
Lots of people install parental monitoring apps on their children’s phones. I do not recommend that you do this since it’s a major invasion of privacy. While these apps can indeed guarantee your kid’s safety, they can also make them feel strangled.
An alternative to monitoring apps is non-intrusive parental controls. These are present almost everywhere and are incredibly easy to activate. You can configure them in a variety of ways for them to meet your needs.
ISP parental controls, in particular, are great at protecting your children. Almost every internet service provider has it. They can help you:
- Block websites
- View online activity
- Block chat rooms
- Let kids request access to websites
- Set time limits for internet use
- Get alerts when settings are changed
- Filter images and videos
- Block certain services
Besides ISP parental controls, there are parental controls on all mainstream operating systems. Moreover, you can also find them in video games and the apps of most digital services. I suggest that you tinker with all of them to provide maximum safety to your kids.
Remember to find the balance between protecting your kids and invading their privacy. It’s okay to monitor them, but only from afar. Never make them feel like you’re watching their every move because this has negative implications. Paranoia may develop, which is never good for anyone.
6. Educate Them About Cyberbullying.
Cyberbullying is an issue that’s more relevant today than it has ever been. The majority of kids experience it at some point in their lives. What’s worse is that they often don’t have the necessary support needed to get through it.
Some may say that bullying is a necessary evil that’s part of growing up. Of course, this is far from the truth.
Bullied children are more prone to have troubled adulthood. They have higher chances of falling into addiction, committing a crime, and engaging in promiscuous behavior.
If you ever discover that your kids are being bullied, provide support. Have a conversation with them to help. Believe it or not, this will go a long way. If the problem isn’t solved by simple measures, then take the next step and intervene. While your children surely won’t like it, they’ll thank you in the future.
7. Social Media
Safeguarding your kids on social media isn’t hard. All that’s required is to be their “friend” on whatever platform they’re using. Why? Because you’ll get to see their posts and who they’re interacting with. It also won’t seem like you’re intruding into their personal lives.
For an added degree of protection, set up your children’s social media accounts’ privacy settings. Leaving things to them isn’t advisable as kids can easily overlook some important things. For example, they allow anyone to add them or view their profile. This will let random people get a glimpse into their lives without effort.
Here’s a list of social media apps that kids are commonly active on:
8. What Can Be Shared And What Can’t Be Shared?
Anything can be shared on computers nowadays. Due to that, it’s essential to know what’s safe to disclose. Posting the wrong things can result in dire consequences for your kids. They could be turned into targets by criminals who have far worse intentions than theft.
Screen what photos and videos your children upload onto their social media accounts. Also, teach them how to verify news sources so as to not post misinformation. Moreover, never let them share anything that can allow others to pinpoint their location.
Often, school projects call for files to be shared among groupmates. These files can contain sensitive information. Hence, you must check the file-sharing settings of whatever platform your kids use.
Video games can serve as platforms for online bullying and identity theft. It can also be through them that strangers obtain private information. Thus, you must take the proper steps to ensure your children are safe whenever they play.
The first thing to do is let them only play authorized versions of titles with the right ESRB rating. Besides that, make sure that an up-to-date antivirus and firewall is running. If possible, never let your kids play without a VPN connection. Also, don’t allow them to install mods without your permission.
Most games require their players to create a user ID. When your children do this, help them come up with one that doesn’t reveal their identity. It’s also best to help them select a profile picture that renders them anonymous. You’ll know you did well when even their friends don’t know it’s them they’re playing against.
One final thing to keep your kids safe when gaming is to teach them not to disclose any info to other players. After all, every precaution mentioned above would be useless if personal information gets willingly divulged.
10. Set Up The Accounts And Privacy Settings On Their Devices.
Earlier, I recommended that you configure up all your children’s social media accounts’ privacy settings. The same thing should be done on their devices. It does not matter whether they are using a PC, laptop, or smartphone. You have to tweak the settings to what's best for making sure your kids are safe.
Apart from changing the settings on your children’s devices, you should also set up their many accounts. While this may take much effort and time, it’s well worth it. You’ll get to ensure that security won’t be compromised with their new gadgets.
If your kids are old enough, I suggest that you let them set everything up on their own so they’ll learn. Serve as a guide when they do this. Ensure that everything is done correctly. Under your supervision, there’ll be nothing to worry about when it comes to maintaining privacy on devices and accounts.
11. Set Up Security Systems On Their Devices
Having the right software can go a long way when providing your kids with complete digital security. Make sure to install an antivirus, firewall, and ad blocker on their computer or phone. These will prevent information-stealing malware from infecting their gadgets and give them a better browsing experience.
One other important thing your children’s devices must have is a VPN. It’s the ultimate tool for providing online security and anonymity. With the right service, others won’t find out the user’s IP address, and thus, real-life location.
Using a VPN comes with many perks. For example, it gives access to foreign streaming service libraries and blocked websites. Additionally, it can also get users off throttling, making internet connection speeds way better. Lastly, the many VPNs let kids watch live sports events that wouldn’t normally be available where they are.
It’s not easy to choose a VPN because of the sheer number of service providers. Luckily, we have in-depth guides and reviews. By reading them, you’ll learn all about the many VPN services and be able to determine what’s best for you.
12. Child-Friendly Computing
If setting up your children’s devices is too troublesome, you can opt to download child-friendly versions of adult apps.
YouTube Kids is an excellent example of such. It only shows content that’s suitable for children. As such, when your kids are using it, there shall be no chance of them accidentally watching a video they’re not supposed to. Some apps like Netflix also have a children’s profile. These profiles only showcase content that kids can watch without worries.
Apart from applications, you should also be mindful of what browsers and search engines your children use. There are several available that were developed with kids in mind. Here are my top 5 child-friendly browsers with integrated search engines:
Kiddle is Google’s special browser for children. It's very colorful and has features like a website blocker and an encyclopedia. With it, your kids can search for images, videos, easy-to-read news articles, along with a whole lot of other child-friendly content.
You’ll probably find Kiddle’s interface to be very familiar. The browser’s search engine is a clone of Google with a cartoon logo. I personally like it because it can make kids used to Google without encountering its dangers.
KidRex is the most visually enticing browser on this list. With a design that mimics a child’s drawing, it’s sure to grab the attention of your kids. As expected, it can be used to search for a diverse range of suitable content for children.
Sad to say, you can’t look for images and videos on KidRex. On the upside, there’s a section on the browser where you can see drawings that kids made of its search engine.
Safe Search Kids
One of my favorite browsers on this list is Safe Search Kids. Although it doesn’t have such a nice interface, it’s loaded with features. Like Kiddle, it’s powered by Google, making it very convenient and familiar to use.
Safe Search Kids’ features are very impressive. The browser has built-in tips to help children deal with cyberbullying. On top of that, it has math reviewers for those who have a hard time mastering the subject in school.
Kidoz isn’t only a browser with a search engine. It is also a launcher that has its own adblocker. Furthermore, it also comes with a kid-friendly camera app and photo gallery. On top of that, you can configure its settings to prevent in-app purchases, among other things.
A downside of this browser is that not all it’s features are free. To block specific websites, you’ll need to pay $8.31. This can be a hassle for those looking to save and have a convenient out-of-the-box experience.
Maxthon Kid-Safe Browser
Unlike other browsers on this list, the Maxthon Kid-Safe browser is only available on Android. It’s a simple browser that’s easy to use.
What makes it stand out is the high degree of control that it gives parents. You have the option to create a list of websites your child can visit. Anything that’s not on there will automatically be blocked. But, if you’re not up to this, the browser is pre-configured with a list of child-friendly websites that are certain to be safe for your kids.
13. Educate About The Dangers Of Sexting.
All children reach an age where they become sexually aware. This is not a bad thing as sex is a fundamental part of life. However, when this happens, a new set of dangers present themselves to your children. Why? Because they do all sorts of new things online.
Sexting, in particular, is something that young adolescents should avoid doing at all costs. The reason is because they never fully know what their partners could do with their conversations. Their sexual chats might get spread around like wildfire.
In worst-case scenarios, your kid’s nudes could be uploaded to social media or even a porn site. Shame would be brought upon them, and they’d have to live the rest of their lives with a heavy load on their backs. It'll be hard for them to find a job and develop healthy relationships once they’re fully grown adults.
Talking to your kids about the birds and the bees is never easy. Nevertheless, it’s a necessary thing that all parents must do. With that said, once the time comes, make sure to discuss the dangers of sexting no matter how awkward it seems.
14. Dealing With Inappropriate Content Online
You’ll never know what you’ll see with the internet connected. After all, it’s the globe’s top one platform for spreading information.
While it’s indeed possible to keep safe online, it is impossible to avoid seeing inappropriate content. You must teach all your children how to properly deal with anything negative they come across when browsing the internet.
First of all, make sure your kids know the difference between good and bad content. What may seem funny for them might be really offensive. This is especially true regarding memes that stupidly make fun of race, gender, and minorities.
Once they’re educated, tell each of your children to simply keep scrolling. This is actually the best way to deal with inappropriate online content. Why? Because nothing shall come about from sharing such things. They’re utter nonsense and not deserving of any attention.
Putting It All Together
To protect children when they go online isn’t an easy task. However, I truly hope that this article was able to help you. By following the mentioned precautions here, you shall be more than able to ensure your children are using a safe internet.
What is important is that you remember the dangers of the internet. Always keep in mind that your kids are potential targets of troublemakers. These people could not only traumatize and ruin their reputations. If anything, they may also take the lives of your little ones.
Being a parent, it’s your responsibility to safeguard them at all costs. Because of that, I hope that you do everything in your power to keep them safe.
Do not prevent them from using the internet but instead educate and guide them. Make sure they never talk to strangers online and look at inappropriate content. When that’s done, I guarantee that your children will be safe.